Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fair Food Phenomenon: Deep Fried Mac and Cheese

Upon moving to Wisconsin nearly eight years ago, I faced the stark realization that I'd been deprived of two very important things as a child: macaroni and cheese, and summer outings to the State Fair.

You see, when I was growing up, I didn't even get the mac and cheese from the infamous blue box. It just wasn't something my mom, a proponent of healthful, homemade dinners, would put on the table. And being a city girl, I couldn't fathom the idea of a State Fair. My idea of livestock was the sea lions at Pier 39, and they were more likely to be observed with a slice of sourdough in your hand than a corn dog.

Now I'm not saying that mac and cheese and State Fairs go hand in hand ... but it turns out they're also not mutually exclusive. In fact, they're downright compatible!

If it's cheesy, deep fried, or served on a stick, you can find it at the Wisconsin State Fair. And the culmination of these three culinary phenomena is a trifecta of Fair food goodness. That's why Deep Fried Mac and Cheese on a stick is my ultimate State Fair dish ... and something I had to recreate at home.

My lack of mac and cheese experience initially made me nervous about this week's Blogger Challenge from America's Test Kitchen. But as I thought about it, I realized that this Challenge afforded me the perfect opportunity to put this recipe to the test. And it turns out that was a pretty darn good idea.

I based my mac and cheese off of the Skillet Macaroni and Cheese recipe from Cook's Country, just scaled back a bit and minus the topping. Then I treated the leftovers as I would any food for frying ... a little seasoned flour, egg wash, and some breadcrumbs. A couple minutes later and voila! Delicious little nuggets of creamy, cheesy, carb-y goodness with just the right amount of crunch!

I had good intentions of threading these deep fried wedges onto wooden skewers to really replicate the State Fair feel, but they didn't last long enough. Bill and I couldn't help but gobble them up as soon as they were cool enough to handle. I should also note that I fried a very small batch. For the sake of our arteries, the remaining mac and cheese is tucked safely away in a casserole dish, waiting to serve as a side on another day.

Before the insanity ensued!
Deep Fried Mac and Cheese
1 3/4 cups water
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 cups large elbow macaroni
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 cups mild cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Bring water, 1/2 cup evaporated milk, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to simmer in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add macaroni and cook, stirring often, until pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk remaining evaporated milk, cornstarch, and hot sauce, then stir into skillet. Cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Off heat, stir in cheese, gradually adding water as needed to adjust the consistency of the sauce (I ended up using about 1/3 of a cup). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Have a helping (because it's best when it's hot and gooey!), place the leftovers in a container, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the mac and cheese from the fridge and cut a portion (about 1/3 of the leftovers) from the container. Slice into wedges. Place flour in a shallow dish and season with cayenne and salt and pepper. In another shallow dish, whisk egg. Place breadcrumbs in a third shallow dish. Working one wedge at a time, dredge the mac and cheese in flour, then dip it in egg, then coat it in breadcrumbs.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a small saucepan. Oil should be about 370 degrees for frying (but rather than checking the temperature with a thermometer, I just stick the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil and call it ready when small bubbles rise around it). Carefully place 2 or 3 coated mac and cheese wedges in the hot oil and fry, 1 to 2 minutes, turning once for even browning. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove wedges to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with remaining wedges.

Careful! You should allow the mac and cheese wedges to cool for a minute or so before scarfing them down. But good luck with that!


  1. Wow, just wow. Wisconsin should be proud. Look what they've done to this nice California girl!

  2. Ah, you are officially a Midwesterner :-) I admit that my favorite splurge food at the fair is the deep fried mac and cheese, but this version sounds tastier than what I had on a stick!

  3. So, this has got to be one of my favorite of your posts. A natural choice for a huge WINNER ;)