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~ Fit to be Fried: Deep-Fried Macaroni & Cheese ~

IMG_0553Macaroni and cheese has got be be near the top of the American comfort food list.  This ooey-gooey irresistable mixture of unpretentious pasta and cheese has earned a beloved place on tables ranging from your grandmother's kitchen to college dorms to upscale restaurants.  I'm sure there is a percentage of you who think it was invented by Kraft foods (their first version was introduced in 1937), but food historians report that it had its humble beginning in the kitchen of Thomas Jefferson, who returned from a trip to Paris with a macaroni maker/press which he bought in Italy.  In 1802, Thomas Jefferson, who had an affinity for cheese and Italian food, began serving macaroni and cheese in The White House.  Jefferson's cousin, Mary Randolph, published her recipe in 1824, on page 238 of her cookbook, The Virginia Housewife, under the name "macaroni pudding".  On a side note, The Virginia Housewife, is considered to be the very first American cookbook and I am proud to own a copy of it.  Some 200 years later, while the basic recipe has changed very little, many Americans spend a great deal of time trying to "tweek" their own recipe to perfection.  I am one such American:

6a0120a8551282970b0133f58e5a1c970b-800wiIn the late 1980's, while watching one of the morning TV shows, I watched an interview with the then White House Executive Chef Henry Haller.  Chef Haller was promoting his new book:  The White House Family Cookbook.  He was fascinating.  Chef Haller served five administrations as White House chef and told a story about Ronald Reagan's love for mac and cheese:

6a0120a8551282970b0177443dcf8d970d-800wiLike most presidents, Reagan worked erratic hours, sometimes into the very early morning. Twenty-four/seven (24/7), the White House kitchen was to have macaroni and cheese waiting for him, and, it had to be prepared just the way he liked it:  spiked with mustard and Worcestershire sauce.  Even when the President was recovering in the hospital from his gunshot wound, the staff was summoned to deliver macaroni and cheese to the hospital.  My recipe for ~ Creamy Baked Five-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese  ~, a spin-off of Chef Haller's, can be found in Categories 4, 14, 17 or 18!  To watch my Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV macaroni and cheese TV segment just click on the following link:

Creamy Baked Five-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese

ImagesIt's no secret that I am a huge fan of college football and this week Penn State is playing the University of Virginia (officially known as the "Cavaliers", unofficially known as the "Wahoos") in Charlottesville.  This public Univeristy, conceived and designed by Thomas Jefferson, was established in 1819.  Their beautiful, historic campus is referred to simply as the "grounds" and the central quad is called the "lawn".  In honor of my favorite "Founding Foodie", I'm taking macaroni & cheese to the next level because:


It is Fit to be Fried:  Deep-Fried Macaroni & Cheese!

IMG_0477Three Tips for deep-frying  macaroni and cheese:  

1) Use any recipe you like, but, make sure you prepare it a day ahead and put it in the refrigerator overnight.  It must be cold when it gets batter dipped and deep-fried.  

2) Resist the urge to put any fun toppings on it that give it a crunchy top crust (additional cheeses, bread crumbs or panko).

3) Bake it covered with foil for 30 minutes, then, uncover and bake until set, another 10-15 minutes.  Because it's going to be batter-dipped, avoid browning as much as possible!

Set up the "deep-frying assembly line!  From left to right:

6a0120a8551282970b0154384a1015970c-800wi1) A 13" x 9" x 2" casserole of macaroni and cheese, baked and chilled.

2)  An 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish containing 2 1/2 cups of pancake mix.

3) A large bowl containing 3 1/4 cups of pancake mix whisked with with 2 bottles of beer.

4)  A 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish containing 16 ounces panko breadcrumbs

5)  A deep-fryer preheated to 360 degrees according to manufacturer's specifications.

6)  A 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan lined with several layers of paper towels.

6a0120a8551282970b0154383e5645970c-320wiA bit about panko:  Why in the name of crunchiness would anyone want to use old-fashioned breadcrumbs to deep-fry anything if they knew about panko?  They wouldn't.

"Panko" is the Japanese word for "bread crumbs", and theirs are considerably crispier and crunchier than our Western ones.  What's more, they absorb less grease, more flavor and stay crispy a lot longer.  When it comes to deep-frying, this ingredient is a game changer!

It's time to batter-dip and deep-fry!

IMG_0497~ Step 1.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place firmly-packed balls of macaroni and cheese side-by-side on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  This can be done 1-2 hours in advance. Keep stored in the refrigerator.


~ Step 3.  When everything is measured and in place as listed above, whisk together the pancake mix and beer.  Set aside for about 5 minutes before starting the frying process.  This will give the batter time to thicken to a drizzly consistency.  If at any time during the frying process the batter gets too thick, whisk in a little more beer or some water.

~ Step 3.  Heat oil in deep-fryer to 360 degrees.

IMG_0503~ Step 4.  Working in batches of 3-4 macaroni and cheese balls at a time, so as not to overcrowd the basket of the deep fryer:

One-at-a-time, dredge each ball in the dry pancake mix to coat it on all sides.  Give it a gentle shake, to let excess pancake mix fall back into the dish...




... Next, move up the assembly line and dip the balls into the beer batter.  When you lift them out of the batter, give them a second or two to allow the excess batter to drizzle back into the bowl.  Now...







... Move up the assembly line once again and dredge the balls in the panko breadcrumbs...









... Carefully place the completely coated balls into the hot oil of the deep-fryer.  Close the lid and cook for 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Remove from the oil and transfer to a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with several layers of paper towels..


... IMMEDIATELY, sprinkle with a fresh grinding of sea salt.  Repeat this process, working in batches of 3-4 macaroni and cheese balls at a time, until all of them are deep-fried.

Note:  For best results, always use peanut or corn oil in the deep-fryer. Don't have a deep-fryer?  Place oil in a 4-quart saucepan until it is half way full.  Heat oil over medium-high heat, using an instant-read thermometer to guage the temperature.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

IMG_0573Want sauce with these?  

You can find my recipe for ~ Sweet 'n Spicy Wing 'n Thing Sauce ~ in Categories 1, 8  & 17!

In a saucepan simply combine a 2:1 ratio honey and hot sauce, or:

1  cup honey

1/2 cup Frank's RedHot cayenne pepper sauce

Over medium heat whisk until warm, about 1 minute. 

IMG_0535Fit to be Fried:  Deep-Fried Macaroni & Cheese:  Recipe yields 40-45 deep-fried macaroni and cheese balls.

Special Equipment List:  8" x 8" x 2" baking dish; large bowl; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; deep-fryer; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; paper towels; parchment paper; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop

6a0120a8551282970b0154336c5b21970c-320wiCook's Note:  Why did Yankee Doodle stick a feather in his cap and call it macaroni?  The British wrote this song and back then "macaroni" was a derogatory term used to describe men who dressed in outrageously excessive clothes, which included tall, heavy, white wigs laden with hundreds of small, tight curls.  In extreme cases, the wigs were built upon and around heavy wire forms. These extreme wigs were worn intentionally by men who were in the business of bringing macaroni from Italy to Britain and France, and, they proudly referred to themselves as "macaronis". British slang for idiot was "doodle".  In the song, they have poor Yankee Doodle sticking a feather in his tricorne or coonskin hat and riding into town on a pony (not even a proper horse) in the hopes of making a respectable fashion statement equivalent to that of the stylish men of Europe (known as "dandies")!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


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