If I had to choose one particular dish that simply reminds me of my dad, it would have to be his Macaroni and Cheese. I mean, there was just nothing like it. I've tried tons of mac and cheeses over the years, but his is made with a special touch of soul.
For a long time, this family recipe remained a secret that only few could actually replicate. The original recipe is from my grandmother, Margaret who used about 3 different kinds of cheeses. In fact, my dad used about 6 different kinds of cheese with each combination of cheeses tasting slightly different. Over the years, I've gone back and forth with the kinds of cheeses I like, but honestly, I rely on the mood of my soul.
This week, I wanted to try something I had never done before, deep fried mac and cheese balls! I wanted to make a mini Hors d'oeuvre for a friend that was full of surprising flavor in the form of a small bite. Hence, Pap's Mac & Cheese Pops.
These pops are so easy to make, but they do require some extra special love and care. I start out by making my dad's original mac & cheese recipe in a cast-iron skillet in a 350 degree oven. Once cooked and cooled down, I take a small ice-cream scooper and form into balls. I freeze the balls for about an hour, or just until their firm enough to handle. Then, I roll the balls in an egg, and Panko bread crumbs. I freeze them again until they are firm again, at least 30 minutes. Last but not least, I deep fry these pops and they come out crunchy, golden, and gooey at the center. They are perfect (and I'm not exaggerating!). Here's the recipe below:
3 cups (about 12 ounces) elbow macaroni
1 14-ounce can evaporated milk
3 large eggs
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces yellow cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounce Monterey Jack cheese, grated
4 ounces Pepper Jack cheese, grated
Adobo seasoning and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup milk
3 cups Panko bread crumbs
Vegetable or Canola oil, for deep frying
Parsley, chopped for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cook macaroni according to packaged directions. Drain into a colander and rinse with cold water.
In a large cast-iron skillet, melt the butter until it browns slightly. Do not burn. In a large mixing bowl, add the macaroni, evaporated milk, 1 egg, and melted butter. Mix well. Season with adobo and black pepper.
Pour half of the macaroni into the buttered cast-iron skillet. Top the macaroni with half of each of the cheeses. Season with adobo and black pepper. Pour the remaining half of the macaroni creating a new layer. Sprinkle the remaining cheeses on top of the macaroni and season with adobo and black pepper. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 50 minutes. Let the macaroni cool in the pan then refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.
Using a small ice-cream scooper and hands, shape the macaroni and cheese into balls (pops) and place them onto a waxed paper-lined sheet tray. Freeze the pops overnight.
In a shallow bowl, beat 2 eggs plus 1/4 cup milk together to form an egg wash. Pour the bread crumbs into a separate shallow bowl. Remove the mac and cheese pops from the freezer. Dip the the pop one at a time into the egg wash the roll into the bread crumbs, ensuring each part is covered. Place the pops back onto the waxed paper-lined sheet tray and freeze until you are ready to deep fry.
In a large 5 to 6-inch deep skillet or deep fryer, heat the oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry the mac and cheese pops until they are golden brown and hot in the center, about 45-60 seconds. Serve hot and sprinkle with adobo and parsley.