Tomato Sauce (optional)
A discussion of the Cheese:
There are two kinds of mozzarella to consider for our purposes. There is fresh mozzarella, which is quite wet and soft, and is and there is low-moisture mozzarella, which is much drier and somewhat harder. You want to use fresh mozzarella - it tastes much better. However, it is more expensive and might be a little harder to find. In a pinch, you can use low-moisture mozzarella, but you may have to dip the cheese sticks in milk first since it is a drier cheese, and it won't taste as good.
To serve appetizers for five or six people, use half a pound. To make the sticks as a light meal for five or six people or as an appetizer for ten or eleven, use the whole pound.
A discussion of Options:
If you want, you can add things to the breadcrumbs for extra flavor in the coating. I add some crushed red pepper.
The tomato sauce is, of course, for dipping, but these mozzarella sticks are definitely tasty enough to stand on their own.
Cut the cheese into slices one half to three quarters of an inch thick. Cut the slices into sticks.
Pour a few spoonfuls of flour into a plastic bag, followed by the cheese sticks. Shake the bag thoroughly, coating all the sticks.
Break two eggs into a small bowl, whipping them lightly with a fork.
Pour breadcrumbs into another small bowl.
Take cheese sticks from the bag, cover them thoroughly with the egg, and then with the breadcrumbs. Coat the breaded cheese again with egg and another coating of breadcrumbs. You want to make sure the cheese is entirely coated - if there are any spots on the cheese stick that look light, put a little egg on the spot and then some more breadcrumbs.
It is nice to have someone else help you with this - one person manning the egg bowl, the other person using the breadcrumbs bowl. By doing this no one will be sticking egg-coated fingers into the bowl of breadcrumbs, avoiding some of the mess and waste.
You will have to refill the bowls with more eggs and breadcrumbs from time to time. The egg bowl might develop a "sludge" of egg, excess flour, and breadcrumbs which will just get in your way and should be removed. When all your cheese sticks have a nice double coating of breadcrumbs, you are finished.
These have to be fried. A dedicated deep fryer helps greatly here, but they can also be fried in a few inches of oil in a pot or pan over a stove. Make sure you know how to fry safely.
The oil should be quite hot - if you have a deep fryer turn the thermostat up all the way.
The entire batch of sticks should be put into the oil at the same time, or as close as possible. Again, a deep fryer with a basket helps here. Since these cook quickly, if sticks are added thirty seconds apart, they will be finished thirty seconds apart, which isn't good.
They will be done cooking in two or three minutes. Watch for cheese bubbling out of the breadcrumb coating. As soon as any appreciable amount of cheese is showing, bring the sticks out of the oil. Wait too long and you will lose the cheese, getting only an empty shell. This is why they all have to be added at the same time.
Drain on a plate with paper towels. Wait a few minutes to let the oil heat up again before making the next batch. If the oil isn't hot enough, you will start losing your cheese before the coating is properly cooked.
These should be eaten, with hot tomato sauce for dipping, as quickly as possible, while the cheese is still deliciously hot and stringy. If you have extra, you should keep them uncooked and refrigerated for later frying, rather than fry them and then try to save them.