This weekend after returning from vacation, I got my new skillet out and fried up the macaroni & cheese that I had pressed into patties and frozen. This is what I learned.
- Use a Tupperware press, or a wedge mold. My mother has had a Tupperware press for years, keeping burgers in separate stackable compartments. I should have done this with the mac & cheese, as some layers became too thin under the weight of others. Wax paper turned out to be inadequate to separate the layers anyway.
- Get a very sharp knife. I had a lot of trouble breaking the patties into wedges. My kitchen knives were inadequate. (A wedge mold would solve both of these issues, if it was deep enough.) As the macaroni softened it got easier, but this also meant I had to refreeze the wedges after cutting. A lot of them broke apart into smaller chunks. It was kind of a mess.
- 6 cups of batter is too much. I had a good number of wedges, enough that it was probably equivalent to a whole box of macaroni if not just under. (I had made two boxes and froze what we didn’t eat.) I have leftover batter that I should probably use on mashed potatoes. As the wise man said, those are good problems. Still, quadrupling the recipe was too much.
- Thin out the batter. It was a little too thick. A little more water, or milk, would have improved it a lot.
- Add more salt to the batter. The batter recipe I was using isn’t salty enough. I doubled the salt after reading comments that it needed more. I should have at least quadrupled the salt.
- Bread, don’t batter. I like my chicken battered rather than breaded. Fried mashed potatoes obviously need a batter. But fried mac & cheese would probably benefit from a simple breading instead. The batter lessons I learned are best applied to other foods. It does seem, however, that breading these might be difficult.
- Get the oil hotter. 350° was just not enough, and the result was greasier than I’d like. Next time I’ll do 375°. I should probably also avoid canola oil and go with something manlier like peanut oil, which has a better smoke point anyway. I filtered and saved the oil, but it has a used-oil smell that I don’t think is entirely pleasant.
All that being said, the frying process was pretty easy. The Presto Foldaway skillet I bought is an absolute dream. While the skillet says you shouldn’t deep fry with it, reviewers said they did, so I believed them, and they were right; the oil wasn’t even halfway up the sides of the skillet anyway.
Cleaning up the skillet when I was done with it was a breeze, making allowances for my small sink and limited counter and stove space. The skillet has a lip in one corner that lets you pour out any oil (and also works for venting during frying if the lid is on), which made it really easy to pour out the oil into a strainer, funnel, and back into the original bottle. I needed my wife to hold the strainer and funnel, though. The skillet itself is a separate piece that’s easy to clean, the base only needed some corn starch and dribbles of batter and oil taken off, and the lid just needed a good soap and rinse.
The final verdict on this attempt: Qualified success, with lots of changes called for. I’ll get better at this with practice.