Attention health fanatics: Please don't go off on me about this week's column. I am inoculated from your fury because my wife, Liz, who is very health conscious, happened to be complicit in coming up with this recipe. Well, the marinara was her idea. And she did do the frying!
This is a fun way to prepare leftover mac and cheese, and the results are delicious. My concern is we will now crave this monthly. With adequate self discipline, we will limit it to a semi-annual culinary experience.
You can see a video on the fried mac-and-cheese Liz and I posted at www.YouTube.com/BBQMyWay. Search for “fried mac-and-cheese.”
To make it yourself, first prepare your favorite mac and cheese recipe. Here is ours:
Macaroni and Cheese
2 lbs. dry macaroni noodles
½ cup flour
1 stick real butter
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
1 lb. Velveeta cheese (cubed)
8 cups milk
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
In a huge pot, boil the noodles until cooked, then drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large pot with a thick bottom over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, slowly add and vigorously whisk in the flour. The pot's thick bottom will keep the flour from burning and the milk from scalding. Once the flour is fully mixed and smooth, you have a roux. Slowly add the milk, while once again vigorously stirring with a whisk. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil while stirring occasionally. The mixture should now coat the back of a spoon. Add salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
Add the cooked noodles and mix. Now add the two cheeses and turn off the heat. Stir until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a large casserole dish which has been sprayed with a no-stick spray. Smooth out and sprinkle the top with more cheddar cheese and dried bread crumbs for texture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and crisp.
Ok, back to this week's fried mac-and-cheese.
The portion of mac and cheese you didn't eat is probably chilled, or I hope it is. Take roughly one cup of italian flavored bread crumbs combine with two cups of panko crumbs in a cast iron skillet. Spice with other flavors, if you want. Place over indirect coals with hickory for 10 to 15 minutes to impart a smoky flavor to the crumbs.
Pour the smoked breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl. Whisk three to four eggs in another shallow bowl. Place a cup or two of flour in a third shallow bowl.
Cut the chilled mac and cheese into pieces you are comfortable with. I cut ours into the size of Rice Crispy treats. Liz thought they were too big. Coat the mac and cheese squares in flour, then eggs. Then roll in the smoked bread crumbs.
Heat a mixture of ½ olive oil and ½ canola oil over medium- to medium-high heat. The oil needs to be about an inch deep. Fry the mac and cheese in the oil until golden brown, which won't take more than 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and brown the other side. Place on a draining rack until all are done. Keep warm in an oven at 200 degrees.
The crunchiness of the outside combined with the soft, creamy cheesiness of the mac and cheese is awesome. Top with your favorite marinara sauce, and this dish goes over the top.
Just don't let the food police know about it.
Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes a column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at www.BBQMyWay.com.