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Fried feta is any sort of feta cheese that has been fried, either in a pan or in a deep fryer. Most of the time, fried feta is used to top salads or is added to vegetables to create a side dish. It is often breaded and seasoned and is almost always served warm. Feta is traditionally a Greek cheese, and fried iterations are most common in Mediterranean cuisine. Cooks around the world enjoy the versatility and smooth texture of the cheese, however, and there are many different ways of preparing and serving it fried.
Feta is a dense, firm cheese that has a relatively high melting point. This makes it ideally suited for frying, as it tends to hold its shape even when exposed to very hot temperatures. Cooking with feta is generally a relatively simple endeavor. The cheese will warm in the center, but only melts over extremely high heat.
Most fried feta is prepared on the stove top, often in a skillet. Cooks must heat some kind of fat — traditionally olive oil in Greece, though butter or regular vegetable oil work just as well — then add chunks or strips of feta once the fat is hot. The feta will absorb the oil or butter and crisp to a golden brown crust on the outside, while maintaining a stable center. Most of the time, feta is cubed or cut into small strips before frying, though it is possible to fry entire blocks.
Using a deep fryer is a more modern, but often more efficient, means of making fried feta. In a deep fryer, a large amount of oil is heated, and the cheese is then completely submerged within the oil to cook. This is usually known as deep-frying, and the result is a much more uniformly browned — but also much less healthful — cheese. Fried feta made according to this method usually comes out with a thick crust, not just a crisped edge.
There are many different types of feta, but all will work well for frying. As far as types of cheese go, feta is relatively dry. All cheeses carrying the name have a uniform consistency, regardless of where they were made or whether they have additional ingredients or flavors added in.
Feta is most commonly marinated or breaded before frying to improve the end result. Plain feta will absorb the cooking oil, but if this is the only crust provided for the cheese, the finished product is likely to brown very quickly, often before the interior has even warmed. Cooks looking for a more uniform frying experience often coat the cheese in any number of herbs, breadcrumbs, and spiced oils before frying. These coatings also improve the end flavor, as they essentially cook onto the cheese as it browns. Even plain flour is usually preferable to nothing, as it coats the cheese, allowing for more even cooking.
Meals with feta are varied, but most of the time, fried feta is used as an accompaniment to a main course, or as an addition to a salad. It is commonly tossed with tomatoes, olives, and fresh herbs like basil as a quick warmed appetizer, or is added to wilted greens for an instantly gourmet salad. The crisp texture giving way to a warmed, smooth interior adds a bit of character to a great many dishes, and can be used at a cook’s discretion in a number of creative ways.