Apparently I’m on a bite-sized food kick lately. Maybe it’s because we’re planning a few larger dinner parties in the next few months and I’m working on crowd-friendly menus. Or maybe it’s because I’ve always had a soft spot for miniature things. Either way, these frico cups are delicious, beautiful, crowd-friendly, and a little bit fancy. Once you’ve mastered the simple technique, they’re incredibly versatile as well!
Frico are lacy Italian fried cheese wafers. You use a drier cheese that will crisp, rather than just melt and stay gooey. I love Pecorino-Romano because it’s salty and a little bit nutty. You can also use Parmesan, Montasio, Asiago, Gruyere or a mature cheddar.
Once cooked, the cheese is pliable for a few seconds, then it crisps and becomes more fragile and brittle. You can let it cool flat and treat it like a delicate cracker. Or you can fold them into a taco (Martha Stewart uses this shape in my favorite Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook). I like to turn them into little bowls; I think they’re perfectly charming.
Once you’ve made the lacy shells, the world is your proverbial oyster when it comes to the filling. I chose simple cherry tomatoes with a touch of balsamic. But you can add fresh herbs, capers, a thin slice of smoked fish or seared beef, delicate greens, tiny pieces of mozzarella (be sure to chose a less-salty cheese though, as most of the cheeses you would use for the frico are quite salty already), etc., etc.
Frico Cups with Tomatoes and Balsamic
For the frico:
1 1/2 Tablespoons of shredded cheese per mini cup (you can use Parmesan, Pecorino, Montasio, Asiago, Gruyere, or a mature cheddar)
equipment: heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet, a large biscuit cutter or the ring from a two piece wide-mouth canning lid, two very tiny bowls or a mini muffin tin, a spatula.
Heat the skillet over medium-low heat. Put your circular shaped tool on the skillet. Fill with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of cheese, spreading it evenly throughout the circle. Remove your ring mold.
Cook until the cheese starts to turn very light brown, about 90 seconds. Flip over with a spatula and cook on the other side for about 30 seconds.
Place one of the small bowls upside down on the counter. Working quickly, drape the warm cheese over the bowl. Layer the second bowl on top of the cheese, creating a sort of bowl-cheese-bowl sandwich that will mold the cheese into a bowl shape. Wait a few seconds, until cool. Be gentle when taking apart the mold, as the cheese will be more delicate once it cools. Alternatively, you can use a mini muffin tin and turn the warm cheese into a cup shape by molding it into one of the muffin wells. Be careful when taking out of the wells though, as I’ve found they break more easily using this method (because it’s a bit tricky to get them out of the mold). Repeat until you have the desired number of bowls.
It may take you a few attempts to get this down. Even the misshapen ones will taste delicious, and you can break them into small pieces and eat them immediately or use them as salty, crunchy salad toppings. If you find your cheese isn’t hardening up enough, add a few pinches of flour to the shredded cheese before cooking to absorb the excess moisture that is preventing it from crisping. This will vary from one type of cheese to another.
The frico can be made 1 day in advance. Keep them in an airtight container at room temperature. Don’t fill them until just before serving, however, as any liquid on the cheese will turn the frico soggy in a few minutes.
For the filling:
1-2 cherry tomatoes per frico cup, cut into quarters
The best Balsamic vinegar you can afford
Fill the cups with slices of cherry tomatoes. If your Balsamic is thick and syrupy, drizzle directly over the tomatoes. If it’s more on the watery side, reduce over medium heat in a small saucepan until thick and syrupy, then drizzle over the tomatoes.
There’s an oven technique for making frico over at FoodieCrush, in case you want to try a different method. I’m a fan of the stovetop method because it gives me more control and I can stagger the timing of cooking the frico so that they’re done far enough apart. That way I can take advantage of those precious few seconds when they’re still pliable without feeling overwhelmed.