I recently bought an electric skillet, because I didn’t own one and it’s the kind of thing I think a well-stocked kitchen should have. I want to learn how to cook more fried foods, whether deep fried or lightly fried. Frying doesn’t have to be unhealthy, and there are a lot of good home-cooked meals I can make now that I have such a skillet, including stir fry—though how I’ll mix in celery I don’t know, since my wife can’t stand it—squash, nice home fries, or even beef or chicken for waffle tacos.
(I invented waffle tacos while I was on vacation in Canada last year. You take a leftover waffle square, a piece of cheese, and a couple strips of leftover steak. Nuke until warm. It is absolutely awesome and if you think it sounds anything but, you’re wrong.)
My experiment with a deep fryer ended poorly, in that it was really just too much work and too hard to clean, and way too big. The electric skillet is said to be very easy to clean, and it folds up into a nice compact package for our tiny kitchen. (It’s the Presto 16-inch electric foldaway skillet. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but I bought it on the strength of its great reviews.) The skillet will not only be good for lightly frying foods, but it should be able to handle some deep frying. People seem to love this thing, so I hope I’ll be one of them too.
As usual, I have an evil plan.
When I tried the deep fryer, I attempted to make two foods I adore from the Great New York State Fair: fried mashed potatoes, and fried macaroni and cheese. There’s a booth where you can get both. The mashed potatoes can be garlic, or cheddar and bacon, so naturally I haven’t tried the garlic kind yet even though I’m sure I’d like them. They come in four balls on a stick, and have a delightfully thin batter coating that’s crispy without being greasy. The fried macaroni and cheese comes in wedges; you can get it at several places but it’s hard to find outside of the Fair. (Friendly’s had fried mac & cheese for a while, but they took it off the menu; they also got rid of their classic grilled cheese that had absolutely nothing wrong with it for at least 35 years, in favor of a new style that sucks, but that’s another rant.)
Anyway, I used a terrific batter recipe at the time that worked out really well. I made two mistakes: I was stupid about how I added things to the fryer so the mashed potato balls got stuck to the basket, and I should have made more batter. To my credit, however, I was smart enough to have frozen the mashed potato balls and the mac & cheese balls before frying. My results were unsatisfying in terms of production, but not in flavor or texture. I’ve wanted to try again for some time, but the thought of going through the laborious cleaning process on the fryer again just takes my heart right out of it.
So we have come to round two. When I’m ready to use my new skillet, I plan on making a batch of macaroni & cheese. Before, I used the little Kraft microwave cups and made a three-cheese variety that was pretty good, but this time I’m gonna go for the straight-up classic and do it on the stove. I’ll freeze what I want to fry, and we’ll eat the rest.
Here’s where the mad genius comes in. At least I think it’s mad genius, but the proof will be in the results. Because I can only go so deep in electric skillet, even one with nice deep sides like this one, I’m going to make my mac & cheese into wedges just like at the Fair. To do that, I’ll stick the cooked macaroni into a burger press and freeze a few patties; I figure a standard patty will make six wedges. Once frozen, I’ll cut the patties up, batter them, and fry them.
This is my checklist:
- Buy burger press.
- Read skillet instructions and do before-first-use preparation.
- Buy oil and any needed fresh ingredients for batter and macaroni.
- Putter around and put off doing anything else till next weekend, since half the weekend is busy. Except maybe do step 5.
- Make macaroni and cheese, and use burger press immediately to freeze patties.
- Cut patties into wedges and return to freezer.
- On fry day, prepare batter and begin heating oil.
It’s gonna be epic.
Then it’s on to cheesy bacon bombs.