By Case D. Fischer
Back to School – something that looks a little different this year. Be that as it may, it’s good to take our focus off our current circumstances and inject a little normality back into our lives. I know if the Fischer kids were still school age, they would have begun to think they were never going to have to go back to school by now. Time to burst that bubble! But even if you are homeschooling to start the year, everyone can agree that it’s time to get into a routine and encourage the kiddos to get back to their studies. I thought it would be fun to share a particularly kid friendly recipe this week. It’s a southern take on a cheesy classic – Fried Macaroni Balls. What kid doesn’t love macaroni and cheese? Next time you make it, make a little extra and use the leftovers for this fun recipe. It’s great for a school lunch or weeknight meal.
Have you ever been to the State Fair of Texas? Even if you haven’t, it is widely known that food vendors at the State Fair are famous for deep frying everything. They even have a contest honoring crazy fried foods. Foods like Fried Beer, Fried Butter and Fried Peaches and Cream. There has even been a Fried Chicken Fettucine Alfredo, so why not Fried Mac and Cheese? I will admit, the flavors for macaroni and cheese are at their peak when it’s freshly made, but the best use of this dish is a somewhat hidden secret. Instead of reheating your leftovers, take them out of the fridge, shape them into balls and fry them. Macaroni and cheese that has been in the fridge overnight or for a few days gives the macaroni a firm texture, which makes it easy to shape into balls.
An important thing to consider when frying is what kind of oil to use. I recommend high smoke point oils. Generally, the more refined the oil is, the higher the smoke point. Neutral oils like canola, vegetable, corn, and sunflower allow the food to keep its natural flavor. Oils made from avocadoes, olives, and peanuts may incorporate some of the oil-based flavors into your food.
In the tradition of the State Fair, you can spice up your fried macaroni by adding chicken, bacon bits, brisket, veggies, or green onion to the macaroni balls before frying, or even include that in the mac and cheese the first time you serve it. Enjoy!
3 cups (day old) macaroni & cheese*
48oz vegetable oil (as needed)
2 large eggs
¼ cup milk
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne
½ tsp ground thyme
½ tsp paprika
1. Take out day old macaroni (if making macaroni fresh, place the macaroni and cheese in a container and refrigerate until firm, about 4-5 hours)
2. Heat vegetable oil (or any neutral high smoke point oil) in a large pot, deep fryer or dutch oven to 350 degrees F.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the macaroni mixture from the fridge, and using an ice cream scoop, scoop the mixture into balls. If the balls need more shaping, hand roll the ball into a circle. Place balls on a parchment sheet 1-2 inches apart and place in freezer for 2-4 hours, or until frozen solid.
4. Whisk breadcrumbs with garlic powder, black pepper, salt, cayenne, ground thyme, and paprika. Pour 1 ½ tbsp vegetable oil in breadcrumbs and whisk together until fully mixed.
5. Beat eggs with ¼ cup milk in a small bowl.
6. Remove macaroni balls from freezer. Dip in egg mixture, and dredge in breading.
7. Fry the balls in pot (try not to overcrowd the pot to ensure equal frying time) until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Drain on paper towel-lined plate. Serve with ranch, marinara sauce, blue cheese, or a fiery buffalo dip!
* Mac and cheese can be homemade, or store bought. If using store bought, use 2-6-8oz boxes.