I can’t believe it, but I feel like summer is already starting to wind down and football season is so close I can almost taste it.  I have a love/hate relationship with football season.  On one side I get to watch my beloved KSU Wildcats and the wonderful Bill Snyder, which I thoroughly enjoy. The leaves start to change and it becomes bearable and even welcomed to be outside for twelve hours at a time, tailgating and watching your favorite sports team win. (Hopefully)

On the other side, it’s also when fantasy football starts – and that my friends, is when I lose all weekend privileges with Kevin.  His whole life starts to revolve around whatever game is playing that day, who’s been injured, trades to other fellow fantasy group members, and a bunch of other stuff I don’t quite understand. I’m sure the many girlfriends, fiancée’s, and wives out there know exactly what I’m talking about.

On another good note, these times also give me an excuse to cook up some fattening fried finger foods. Let’s face it; you can’t watch football without some devilishly delicious indulgences. Deep friend pepper jack bites hit the spot just right.

Cubes of pepper jack cheese are breaded, flash fried, and then served with a spicy dipping sauce.

The first time I tried to recreate them, it wasn’t exactly successful. Don’t get me wrong, they were still pretty good just not as good as they could be. The cheese oozed out of the breading, and consequently into the deep fryer, ruining the oil and making me go back to the drawing board.  In hindsight, I realize that throwing room temperature cheese with only one coating of breading into a screaming hot deep fryer probably wasn’t my most genius of ideas.

After I thought and thought about it, I realized that I should probably do more than one layer breading to ensure that there is a solid coating around the cheese and the most important part? Freezing after the breading is completed.  Instead of the cheese evaporating and oozing out through the breading it’s nice and gooey in the center.

Well, even though the flash fry created a wonderful golden brown and crispy crust, they weren’t in the oil long enough to melt the cheese. This one just didn’t want to cooperate with me.

After staring at my beautiful but still frozen bites I had another thought, why not just stick them in the oven for a few minutes after the flash fry until the cheese is melted?

Worked like a charm. Finally! Perfectly golden brown and gooey cheese bites. Sirracha ranch kicks up the spice just a tad for the perfect cheesy, crispy, tangy, and spicy bite.

Cut pepperjack into 1/2 inch cubes.

Set up the good ole breading station.  Flour seasoned with a little garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and salt.  Eggs mixed with a little bit of water.  Panko bread crumbs seasoned with some salt.  Let the breading begin!

Working in batches coat each cheese cube in the seasoned flour.

Next, a little dip into the egg. Move back to the flour to coat again and then back into the egg mixture.

After the double dip in the flour and egg, it’s time to coat in panko.  I like to double bread because it ensures that the cheese doesn’t completely ooze out during the frying/baking process; and let’s be serious, extra breading is always a good thing.

Back into the egg again!

Last coating in the panko.

Line up on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer for at least one hour.  This step is important because if you fry them up right away the cheese will just dissolve.  This would be a great item to make up one day, store in the freezer and pull out as needed.

Fill a saucepan with about two inches of canola oil.  Heat to 375 degrees and also preheat your oven to 325 degrees.. Flash fry bites in batches until golden brown. Take note. Do NOT walk away from the stove, the browning happens fast; about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Drain on paper towels. I’m not sure where my mind was at this point but the rest of the cooking process was not documented.  The good news though, is that we’re almost finished so you didn’t miss out on much.  Since we just flash fried the cheese bites the cheese is still going to be cold on the inside.  We’re looking for an ooey gooey cheese in the middle and not hard cold cheese. Ick. Place a cookie cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet.  Line all of the bites on the rack and place in the oven for about five minutes or until you can start to see the cheese oozing out just a smidge.

To kick up the spice even more, serve with a tangy, spicy Sirracha Ranch. Yumm…

Spicy Pepper Jack Bites with Sirracha Ranch

Makes about 48 bites

1 8 oz block of pepper jack cheese

1 cup flour

1 cup panko bread crumbs

2 eggs mixed with 1 tablespoon water

1 tsp salt divided

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder divided

Canola oil

½ cup ranch (recipe here)

¼ teaspoon Sirracha (or more if you prefer it a little bit more spicy)

Cut cheese in ½ inch cubes. Set up your breading station.  In three different bowls place flour and ½ tsp salt, cayenne pepper, and ¼ tsp garlic powder.  In another bowl mix eggs and water.  In the last bowl mix panko with ½ tsp salt and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder. Working in batches coat in the flour, then egg, and back into the flour.

Next coat in egg mixture, then panko, back into the egg, and the final dip into the panko. So flour->egg->flour->egg->panko->egg->panko. Place on large cookie sheet and freeze for at least one hour.  If preparing the day before place in an airtight container and freeze. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat about two inches of canola oil in a deep pot to a medium high heat about 375 degrees.

Working in batches fry cheese until the crust is golden brown about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Transfer fried bites to a cooling rack placed on top of a cookie sheet and bake in the oven five minutes or until cheese is just BARELY starting to ooze out.  Mix Sirracha and Ranch together. Serve immediately.

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