I’m a fan of Hanukkah. I love the way the candles smell as wax drips down the menorah, I love finding cute little presents for my nieces and nephews, and of course, I love the food.
What’s not to like when your religion literally dictates you eat fried food for eight days? Sure, I already have high cholesterol thanks to genetics, but I will never pass up an opportunity to eat fried potatoes, especially when they’re rabbi-approved.
But recently, I learned about another Hanukkah food tradition that I’m absolutely obsessed with: cheese. Why do I love this? One, because it’s based on the badass story of the forgotten Hanukkah heroine, Judith, who, in order to take down the evil Holofernes, who had taken over her city of Jerusalem, fed him so much cheese and wine that he eventually fell asleep — and she beheaded him. And two, because it’s cheese.
As Ronnie Fein wrote for the Nosher, her family honors the story of Judith every Hanukkah with cheese latkes. And while I’ve never had one, I’m sure that’s delicious.
But I have a modest proposal for you all: Why not make mozzarella sticks an official Hanukkah food?
Both fried and full of cheese, mozzarella sticks can be a deeply meaningful Hanukkah food while also doubling as the best appetizer ever, and that’s just a fact. Crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside, and requiring zero utensils, it’s hard for me to find a more perfect food. And now that I’ve realized they fit perfectly with the Hanukkah tradition, I’m even more excited to celebrate the Festival of Lights with this festival of bites (I’m so sorry, friends, I couldn’t help myself).
So, how can you enjoy mozzarella sticks this holiday season?
For starters, you can go to any diner or TGI Fridays and order as many baskets as your Hanukkah heart desires. I’ve also heard good things about Trader Joe’s frozen mozzarella sticks. But did you know it’s also super easy to make them at home? With string cheese?!
Yes, it’s true. After Googling, “Can you make mozzarella sticks out of string cheese?” one recent desperate evening, I found this recipe and promptly gave it a whirl. I cut the string cheese sticks in half for a slightly easier frying situation. The result was amazing, deep-fried goodness even better than what you get in any restaurant, all in a matter of minutes.
If you’re looking for a way to differentiate your Hanukkah mozzarella sticks from your everyday mozzarella sticks, you can skip the marinara sauce for a different kind of dip. As a nice Midwestern gal, I’m here to say that ranch makes an excellent mozz stick accoutrement, but you can also play around with tahini, guacamole, or even some chili jam. Also, you can dip them in nothing. They are already perfect, after all.
As you prepare for your Hanukkah celebrations this year, I hope you remember dear Judith and the miracle of oil, and honor both with a batch of fried cheese. Your rabbi wouldn’t want it any other way.