Do you remember the first time you truly understood that fried mac and cheese was a thing? I do. It was at this awesome diner in Los Feliz, California. It was definitely after midnight and I was elated that such a thing even existed. The downside? It ended up being an extremely deflating experience that threw me off the idea of fried mac and cheese for a while. Frankly, it sucked. Then I decided to do it on my own, and you know what? I nailed it, but not the first time I tried it. Here are some pro tips so you can nail it too.
1. As we all know from South Park‘s early days, balls are better salty
It should go without saying, but if you don’t season your breadcrumbs, the crust on those little gooey, golden orbs will taste like nothing. I only know a couple people who like to eat things that taste like nothing, and why would you want to detract from your delicious mac by adding something with no flavor, such as unseasoned breadcrumbs?
2. Extra cheese is the move
This mac and cheese is cooked twice, so if you don’t maximize your gooeyness right off the bat, you’ll be left with balls so dry they explode like dust. Use a bechamel-based cheese sauce, and make 30-50% more than you normally would. OR, and this may be blasphemous to some, you can add some Velveeta into your normal recipe (don’t replace any cheese, add extra here). Again, you want an extra 30-50% of cheesy sauce in there to achieve maximum fried gooeyness.
3. Freeze your balls
Now, how do you get your gooey concoction into balls so you can bread ’em and fry ’em? Easy, freeze it! But not in one large mass. Get a mini-cupcake tray, and fill each slot with a bite-sized amount of mac and cheese, then stash in your freezer until frozen. Let them thaw for about 5-7 minutes before you start breading them.
4. Encapsulate your balls in layers
You might think you can dunk these straight into breadcrumbs and be good to go, but you’d be wrong. Make sure you go in this order: flour, eggs, breadcrumbs. It’ll help form a solid crust to keep all that good stuff in, because you don’t want it leaking into the frying oil.
5. Pay close attention to frying temperature
A lot of things are fried between 325-400 degrees F. The sweet spot for fried mac is between 350-375. If it’s too low, your crust won’t seal quickly enough and your balls may fall apart. If it’s too hot, you run the risk of having a cold center (remember, they’re sort of frozen when they go in). Keep yourself in the Balls-Goldilocks Zone (that’s the scientific term), and you should be good to go.
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