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January 31, 2008 / Tony

Macaroni and Cheese Fingers

This recipe originally comes via Alton Brown, although it seems that fried macaroni and cheese is gaining some widespread acceptance as I have seen or heard about it at The Cheesecake Factory, TGIF’s, and the Minnesota State Fair.  I think it’s a simply brilliant idea that creates a rich and creamy fried treat.  Lush might be the best description of it.  However, when made in the way I did last night, the result was not excessively heavy or even filling.  The key is to keep the fingers from getting too fat.  Also, the spicy marinara sauce helped to lighten as well by cutting the richness of the cheese in the dish.  I thought it was a dynamite combination.  Here’s a picture:

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And here’s the recipe:

Macaroni and Cheese Fingers, based on this recipe by Alton Brown

1 1/2 cups Marinara Sauce, preferably homemade

Crushed red pepper, to taste

1/2 pound elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon powdered mustard

3 cups milk

1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 large egg

12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh black pepper, to taste

2 eggs, beaten with 2 T water

about 1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.   In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Cook until all of the moisture in the butter has evaporated.  Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes or until it becomes bubbly. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for ten minutes.  Remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg.  Stir in the cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 9×13 baking pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Cool at least 4 hours and preferably overnight. 

Heat marinara sauce, adding enough crushed red pepper to make it spicy. 

Cut cooled macaroni and cheese into “fingers” about 3 inches by 3/4 inch.  Gently coat with egg and then coat with Panko bread crumbs.  Heat oil in a deep fryer or a pot to 350 degrees.  Fry fingers for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until golden brown.  Drain briefly on paper towels and serve immediately with marinara sauce.

A couple of notes: 1)  The macaroni and cheese part of this recipe is great on its own.  Check the link for the remaining directions.  My only suggestion is to cook the onion in the recipe before adding it to the dish.  For fried macaroni and cheese, however, I liked the more aggressive onion flavor.  2)  Tempering the egg involves very slowly adding the hot liquid to the egg and whisking until the egg comes up to temperature.  You can then safely add the egg mixture back into the sauce.  Otherwise, there would be scrambled eggs in your macaroni and cheese.  3)  Use a gentle hand as the fingers are fragile. 

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