So in a minute, I’m gonna tell you all about how I made these scrum-diddily-umptous oven-fried mac and cheese balls. But first, let me talk about some nonsense that will only vaguely tie into the reason I made this recipe. But read on… I promise it will be worth it.
Last night I was goofing off on Facebook a little bit, and my sista from the South, Shawna Rae (one of my favorite ex-blogging buddies) sent me a photo of a cake her (edit: EX) husband made…
Her (edit: EX) husband made this y’all. He’s not a pastry chef; he’s a pilot. But you’d never know it, given this thing is 12 layers of perfection with homemade frosting and everything. I drooled.
I am drooling right now. That’s gross, stop that.
And although I wanted to send her a retaliatory pic of my dancing mac and cheese balls (because, let’s be honest, that cake was good. A stationary cheese ball would not do)…
Instead, I thought I would share a photo of the last thing my husband baked…
That’s a big plate of nothing.
So, yeah. Not that I am envious… I kind of like being the master of my kitchen. I am very competitive and I’m not sure how well two cooks in it would work out. Luckily, my husband is old-school. He stays out of the kitchen… because he is not stupid. If someone would happily make you delicious food sprinkled with love and joy everyday, and all you had to do was stay out of her damn way while she did it, you’d sit your butt on that sofa and watch baseball too. And don’t go thinking I live with some Neanderthal who believes a woman’s place is in the kitchen; on the contrary. My husband would happily trade places with me if I could only find a way to make money combining my unique talents for impersonation, my spectacular, not at all wonky, salsa dancing skills, and my uncanny ability to identify people by their teeth alone. Seriously. It’s weird. I could meet someone once, not see them for ten years and still be able to identify them based on their teeth.
So anyway, he has had more success marketing his skills, so I get to be queen of the kitchen. Yay!
But because he couldn’t tell you the difference between a whisk and a wok, he is at my mercy when it comes to eats. And I kinda dig that power. Especially when we argue. Oh, you wanna argue with me? Lasagna for you! (he hates pasta… I know, right! It’s totally crazy, inhuman, and disturbing). And sometimes I make stuff he doesn’t think he is a fan of in the hopes of changing his mind. Like these Healthy*ish Oven-Fried Mac and Cheese Balls. (See, I tied it in).
These came about because I bought an industrial-sized box of Mac and Cheese product the other day and I was shocked, I tell you, when the kids were less than thrilled. So I had about a pound of leftover mac just staring at me in the fridge. I hate wasting food. There has to be a way to turn this into something palatable.
When in doubt, you fry it, right?
The first time I had fried mac and cheese balls was in a bowling alley in Louisville over a decade ago. That was the most memorable part of my whole trip. Well, that and the fact that this bowling alley also had a pseudo-trendy lounge attached to it. One of those lounges with the beds that are sort of sprinkled around the room in a sultry, trying to be sexy, but reeeaallly just creepy kind of way. I think that was a popular schtick in the bar industry for a minute. Blessed be the death of bizarre fads. Anyway… the mac and cheese balls made the scene bearable. They were, gooey and cheesy and crispy and honestly, the best food invention I had ever been privy to. So I started making them as after-bar food for my friends.
Fast forward a handful of years, and I no-longer have friends who stay up past Downton Abbey o’clock. So, I haven’t even thought about fried mac and cheese balls in ages. Until this congealed cheese-product mass was staring me in the face. Don’t mock me, Mac. I’ll fry your ass. Sort of.
I really do try to make healthy food choices. Or at least I try for balance. So the only time I fry anything is when I make extra crunchy fried chicken fingers. You can’t mess with perfection, and they need a quart of oil to reach perfection. Fine. They get a pass. But everything else gets baked. So I thought I would oven-fry these, similar to my crispy baked chicken fingers with homemade panko. I make my own panko, which I much prefer to the store-bought kind. You can find out how super simple it is by clicking the link above. But store-bought would work just as well.
Let me tell you, given what I had to work with (a vat of boxed mac and cheese) I did not have high expectations, so I was pleasantly surprised when these oven-fried mac and cheese balls turned out to be super delicious. Like, I will make these again for sure during football season, possibly even for the Super Bowl yummy. Anything that makes it onto your Super Bowl table has got to be pretty darn worthy, and these really packed the perfect combo of cheesy, melty, crunchy goodness. Plus, perfectly acceptable to eat with your hands! Yay! No forks to stab your brother with (don’t even get me started…).
These are delicious with plain ol’ ketchup, and oh my goodness, Ranch dressing. And next time, I am totally going to make a spicy southwest-style horseradish sauce. Like the stuff you dip your blooming onion in? Yes. That. So we will be revisiting these in the not too far-off future so I can whip up a batch of that creamy goodness to go with them. But for now… grab the recipe for my oven-fried mac and cheese balls, and put that boring box of mac to good use.
Healthy*ish Oven-Fried Mac and Cheese Balls
Cheesy mac and cheese rolled in a crunchy crust. You better make two batches. Just sayin'.
- Family sized box of macaroni and cheese (powdered cheese kind) prepared as directed - cooled to room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups cheddar-jack cheese - shredded
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 2 TBSP water
- 3-4 cups panko breadcrumbs
- non-stick cooking spray
- Prepare your mac and cheese according to directions on the box. Cool to room temperature.
- Once your mac has cooled, take it out and mix in your shredded Cheddar Jack cheese. Begin rolling into ping-pong ball sized balls. You want them to be fairly packed together, so you don’t have to be delicate. Place balls on a cookie sheet that will fit in your freezer and freeze for about 2 1/2 hours.
- Once your balls are frozen, create your dredging station. Beat the eggs with the water in a small bowl. Put the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper. Place your panko on another plate. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and lightly coat a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
- Dip a ball in the egg wash, followed by flour. Dip again in egg wash and roll around in the panko until coated. Place on your greased cookie sheet and repeat until all balls are coated with panko. Spray the balls with a light coating of non-stick cooking spray and pop in the oven for about 15 minutes or until golden and crispy.
- Serve with your favorite dipping sauce (ketchup, come-back sauce, and ranch are my favorites).
The freezing part is necessary. I know it's hard to wait... but if you don't freeze them before baking, instead of cute little toasty balls, you will end up with a baked mac and cheese and panko oozy sludge. Trust.
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Wusthof Classic 7-piece Slim Knife Block Set (Acacia)
Mixing Bowls with Airtight Lids, 6 piece Stainless Steel Metal Bowls by Umite Chef, Measurement Marks & Colorful Non-Slip Bottoms Size 7, 3.5, 2.5, 2.0,1.5, 1QT, Great for Mixing & Serving
Kitchenaid Professional 600 Stand Mixer 6 quart, Empire Red
Nutrition Information:Yield: 30 Serving Size: 4
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 226Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 367mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 8g
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary significantly for a recipe based on factors such as precision of measurements, brands, ingredient freshness, or the source of nutrition data. We strive to keep the information as accurate as possible, but make no warranties regarding its accuracy. We encourage readers to make their own calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.