One Sunday a few mornings ago, Eugene asked me to make him pancakes. So I did. Sort of.
We'd had a kind of macaroni and cheese dish the previous night. A somewhat virtuous recipe I made on the fly by mixing a variety of fancy cheeses and sauteed bits of prosciutto into a creamy bechamel. This I poured over whole wheat rigatoni and baked for 20 or so minutes until it bubbled and crisped at the edges. It was rich and satisfying and left us both a bit woozy. So much so, that the rest of the evening was lazying about on the sofa with little more than the occasional contented sigh passing between us.
That next morning, (that aforementioned Sunday) I walked into the kitchen and practically automatically pulled out the now-chilled dish of leftover pasta. With barely a thought, I pulled down a bag of my new favorite whole wheat panko breadcrumbs and an egg. I set up my bowls (one for flour, one for egg, and one for Panko) and a plate on the counter. Then, using my hands, I carefully scooped up little handfuls of pasta and squooshed (yes, squooshed!) them into patty shapes. Once they'd all been dredged and egged and breaded, I fried them in a cast-iron skillet with about an inch of hot oil until they came out crunchy and golden.
Not exactly pancakes, but no complaints either. Would you complain about crispy breadcrumbs on the outside and creamy cheese goodness on the inside? Eugene ate four. I ate one. OK. And a half...
I probably won't be making these again any time soon (because , uh, it's deep-fried cheesy pasta), but if you have some leftover "mac n' cheese" (or heck! even leftover Alfredo) I definitely urge you to give it a try. I didn't take the time to write a recipe for this, but Paula Deen sure did! Here's her version (with my adaptations).
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Fried Macaroni & Cheese.
Adapted from a recipe by Paula Deen
Coconut or canola oil, for frying
Leftover macaroni & cheese (or other creamy cheese-based pasta), chilled in the refrigerator overnight
Flour, for dredging
salt & black pepper, to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
Whole Wheat Panko breadcrumbs, for dredging
Heat about 2 inches of oil in a medium cast iron skillet over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees.
While the oil heats, use a spoon and your hands to scoop out 1/4 cup sized spoonfuls of the macaroni and cheese. Use your hands to mold into round patties and set on a wax paper-lined plate. Repeat with all the leftover pasta.
Pour about a cup of flour into a shallow pan. (Note that this amount will be determined by how much leftover pasta you will be using). Season with salt and black pepper. Pour panko into a second shallow pan and the egg into a third.
Take each patty and gently dredge in the flour mixture. Dip in the egg until fully coated. Let the excess drip off before dredging in the panko breadcrumbs making sure to full coat the patty. Set aside and repeat with the remaining patties.
Once your oil has reached 350 degrees, fry the patties 2-3 at a time for about 1-2 minutes each side until they are golden and crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined tray and let drain for a few minutes before serving.
Serve immediately. (Leftovers can be frozen and then reheated in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes.)