Since last year, Hail Mary's made a mission of offering comfort food classics that whisk us back to Funfetti birthday parties and after-school meals straight from a bright yellow container—only made from scratch and not from a box. And then they went ahead and blew the lid off mozzarella sticks, debuting Deep Fried Burrata about a month after they opened.
To the uninitiated (HOW?), burrata is mozzarella's creamier, sexier cousin. Instead of just a solid hunk of fresh buffalo milk cheese, burrata is like two cheeses in one: an outer case of stretchy mozzarella enveloping stracciatella, a "soft, stringy curd and cream." Now just imagine all of that...but breaded, fried, and served with a spicy tomato sauce. Sure, dim the lights.
"We wanted to take a spin on a super traditional diner mozzarella stick but make it a little more interesting," Hail Mary owner Ham El-Waylly says of his creation. "Everyone seems to love burrata these days. It just seemed like a perfect fit."
The burrata's flown in once a week from Puglia (yes, in Italy) from a purveyor whose only creation is this cheese. "He doesn't know we fry it, [but I think] he'd be fine with it," El-Waylly laughs. "He's super proud of his burrata, so I didn't have the heart to tell him that we fry it."
The team experimented with a few methods of battering, ultimately settling on flour and buttermilk baths before a dip into Progresso breadcrumbs. "At the beginning of this experiment, we knew that the one thing we wanted to keep from the original mozzarella stick were the Progresso breadcrumbs," El-Waylly explains. "That's what gives you that nostalgic red sauce or diner feel. If you've ever had mozzarella sticks anywhere, that's the brand of breadcrumbs that they use, I guarantee it."
The cheese comes to rest on a sauce made of hand-crushed, canned San Marzano tomatoes; toasted garlic, "cut Goodfellas-style"; some Calabrian chili; and a handful of chopped parsley to finish. It's topped off with a final shaving of Pecorino cheese and a drizzle of Spanish olive oil, inspired by El-Waylly and his wife Sohla's favorite pizzeria, DiFara's.
So how popular has the burrata been on the menu? Along with their claw-on fried chicken, it's the most ordered dish on the menu.
"We had a three top [Ed. Note: An industry term for a table of three] come in for brunch and then they got one burrata to start. And then they got three burratas—one for each of them—right after," El-Waylly recalls. "I think that's probably our most ridiculous burrata story."