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Crunchy Mac and Cheese? Can it be done?? Please help!!!

So, I've gotten it in my head that I am going to make mini mac and cheese bites for tomorrow night's bowl game. Since my Horns are playing (and hopefully winning!), I want these cheesy little buggers to be chock full of Tex-Mex flavor.

Here's the idea---mac and cheese doctored up with garlic, onions, peppers (jalepenos, serranos, or bell--I haven't decided on the spice level), tomatoes, & cumin and baked in mini-muffin tins. They'll be the right size, but I want I them to be crunchy on the outside and creamy spicy on the inside. I've seen the fine living recipe for parmesean crusts, but I don't think that'll fit the flavor profile.

If I can't figure out how to crunchify these things I might have to pull a Paula and wrap 'em in bacon and deep fry the heck out of em.

Please help me avoid that terrible fate.

Please.

~Sarah

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  1. Out of curiosity what is a "mini mac and cheese bite" ?
    I'm trying to picture it and can't. I'm thinking of a piece of elbow macaroni stuffed with cheese?

    2 Replies
    1. re: monku

      No. Baked macaroni and cheese in a smaller form. Like this--but a heck of a lot tastier.

      http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/th...

      I'm also thinking of using smaller pieces of pasta. I think the elbow macaroni might be too big for this project.

    2. Maybe if you roll 'em in panko. Or crushed cornflakes. And deep-frying would definitely help crisp things up, but the bacon's going the wrong direction.

      I'm a UT alum, my stepdad went to Alabama. He still lives in Tuscaloosa and is a huge Crimson Tide fan. This is gonna be fun. Hookem!

      4 Replies
      1. re: alanbarnes

        Maybe it's just me, but I always think things coated in cornflakes come out tasting like...cornflakes. Even when seasoned.

        1. re: ChristinaMason

          There are two different types of cornflakes, though, and you have to pick the right one. I totally agree that the super-crunchy variety (the thicker kind) are far too sweet for coating anything but desserts. But the thinner type (I believe Kellogg's is the main one) are much more savory -- but they also have a lot less crunch.

          1. re: ChristinaMason

            ChristinaMason's right -- typically corn flake crumbs impart a strong flavor.

            The cool thing is that the OP's going "tex-mex" so the corn flavor will actually go fine with the added ingredients in her mac 'n cheese.

          2. re: alanbarnes

            I was thinking that too. To roll them in panko, or plain buttered dried bread crumbs. Roll them in it, then put on a baking sheet at 350 for about 10 mins watching them closely.
            Use some creamy mascarpone in the creamy cheese mix, just to ensure that when you bite into these little cheesy things, they are creamy. I'd do mix of cheese in these, a stringy mozz, cheddar and fontina and then a little mascarpone. And small elbow macaroni.

          3. My first thought was, panko crumbs, but that would only give you a crunchy top. Maybe butter & crumb the insides of the muffin tins?

            Second thought, deep fry those suckers -- had that at a wedding once, they were great. Probably tedious for a home cook though. Of course, Paula has a recipe, but without bacon (not that I'm stopping you)

            http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/be...

            1. Mmm. Sounds delicious!

              I'd go with a small soup pasta. Stellini are really cute -- orzo would work, too, or really tiny ditalini.

              As for the crusts, tough call. If you don't want to deep-fry, or even pan-fry, you might be best off with a seasoned-crumb coating and tossing them in the oven, maybe on a rack to avoid soggy bottoms.

              Good luck!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

                The orzo idea made me think...instead of balls, with orzo you could make chips/mini cakes and spread out much thinner hopefully making a crispier product - just an idea.

              2. This may sound strange but I'd try panko and crushed potato chips. The potato chips really hold up and don't get mushy.

                1. How about baking a pan of mac and thoroughly chilling it. Cut into cubes, dip in flour, then eggwash, and then seasoned panko. Get those into a hot oven on a baking sheet to heat through and crisp up and toast under the broiler right before serving. Mist with a little oil to help ensure crispness if you want.

                  It will probably work. I do something similar with tofu: http://culinspiration.wordpress.com/2...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ChristinaMason

                    This was going to be my suggestion, too. Can always add butter and more cheese to the panko to help it clump and crisp, too.

                  2. This was a wonderful conundrum to think about.

                    I like the idea of the mini-macs in muffin tins, for plenty of surface area to brown/crisp up.

                    Fans of my macaroni and cheese like it with a crispy crust. In order to do that without the macaroni turning into hard, gummy, chewy hunks, I boil the macaroni until it's a bit past al dente, then bake as usual. I don't even have to re-top the casserole before I finish it under the broiler. My concern about making crispy-outside mac and cheese portions is that in trying to make it crispy the macaroni will be rendered inedible.

                    I'm lovin' the deep-frying idea. The trick is to find a cheese that'll crisp up, like parmesan. The OP needs a different flavor of cheeses to go with the tex-mex thing. I can't tell you a lot about how different cheeses cook up under frying situations. Perhaps there's a 'hound with plenty of cheese experience who can suggest one that'll stand up to deep-frying (perhaps with just a coating of flour, or crumbs, to protect it).

                    1. My gosh they're some really good suggestions here, I've decided I'm making these perhaps sooner than later! I'm going to red pepper flakes to some and perhaps bacon too.

                      1. If you want to go the deep-fried route, check out Alton Brown's recipe for Mac & Cheese "Toast".
                        http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: toveggiegirl

                          Yeah, why not just deep fry them? That is definitely the most fool-proof way to get them nice and crispy. No need for the bacon, either.

                        2. I had some fried Mac&Cheese cakes at Foster's Restaurant (New Haven) recently which were quite crispy. As far as home cooking goes, I recently made some stove-top Mac-n-Cheese

                          http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                          which turned out a little runny (I would use less milk next time) so I sprinkled Panko crumbs on top and browned it in the oven which dried it up and produced a nice crunchy product.

                          1. rotel would be great for the tex mex flavor...i do this in my mac and cheese sometimes

                            1. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/f... Nice article about crunchy mac and cheese in the Globe and Mail!

                              1. Pepper jack cheese it always a good addition for my spicy mac n cheese... esp if you get a really hot one!

                                1. UPDATE!!!

                                  I did it! I made delicious, crunchy, tex-mex, mini-mac and cheese bites!

                                  I took all of your advice--I added marscapone and pepper-jack to the standard cheddar mix. And then, I buttered the inside of the muffin cups and dusted them with a half-panko, half parmesean mixture. Barely filled the cups and topped them with more parm. Baked them at 425* for 15 minutes, and voila--the best appetizer ever!!!!! The parmesean doesn't overwhelm the garlicy-cuminy-spicy goodness like I thought it would. These are perfect.

                                  Thank you!

                                  ~Sarah

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: ms.sarah

                                    yum, congrats! you should start a blog and post the project :)