Really, this isn't so much a post about how to make macaroni and cheese as it is a post about what to do with leftover macaroni and cheese. So I will let you find your own path to macaroni and cheese. If you make the macaroni and cheese specifically for this purpose, that's fine too, of course. But you're going to have to let it cool in the refrigerator for a while. It needs to be easy to handle. Because you're going to abuse it.
There were a lot of false starts on waffling macaroni and cheese. At first I tried just waffling the cooked and cooled chunks, but after a few minutes in the waffle iron, the cheese had melted away and the macaroni stubbornly refused to conform to the grid of the waffle iron. It had all of the easily imaginable drawbacks of waffled macaroni and cheese — cheese melts easily, after all — and none of the advantages (i.e., no discernible waffle form).
Then I decided to get clever which, as you may suspect before you even move beyond this clause, didn't lead to anything good. If the noodles were refusing to bend to the will and the weight of the waffle iron, maybe I could cut them down to size.
So I dumped a batch of cold macaroni and cheese into the food processor and gave it a whirl. I envisioned the resulting pellet-sized bits of macaroni and cheese conforming easily to the grids of the waffle iron, fusing together into one magnificent macaroni and cheese waffle.
Not so much.
And I made a loaf of macaroni and cheese, which had a slightly different texture to it — one that didn't charm me but which I thought would at least hold up in the waffle iron. I let it cool, cut off a slice, and waffled it.
This was all months ago. Since then, I avoided the topic by waffling abut 20 other things. And that worked well for a while. Until it didn't.
Macaroni and cheese popped up again.
I appealed to Ask.Metafilter for ideas.
Bread it, they said.
That's what worked.
First, I spread the prepared macaroni and cheese into a thin layer on a sheet pan and put it in the refrigerator. (If I had wanted to be more careful about it, I could have rendered it flat on both sides by pressing it between two sheet pans.)
The next day, I took it out and cut a block about the size of a small waffle.
In three shallow dishes, I set out the following ingredients:
- an egg, beaten with a bit of salt and pepper
- bread crumbs (I used Japanese-style panko) and grated cheese (I used pecorino romano)
I coated the block of macaroni and cheese first in the flour, then dunked it in the egg, and then coated it with the bread crumbs. It held together, though it certainly benefited from a delicate touch.
Into the greased (Belgian) waffle iron it went for about three minutes.
The extraction process was a bit tricky, but with a silicone spatula and some patience it was possible to get the waffled mac-and-cheese out in one piece — OK, two pieces.
The bread-crumb coating and the heat from the waffle iron may tend to make it a bit dry. Melting a little cheese on top of it, drizzling some cheese sauce over it, or sprinkling some olive oil on it can help with this.
Really, if you can nail it, the presentation is pretty much unbeatable, even if it does come out in pieces.
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This is answer No. 29 to the question "Will it waffle?".
I picked macaroni and cheese from a short list of ideas with the help of a poll — a poll that really went off the rails when some people frantically and comically stuffed the ballot box. (Who knew the stakes were so high?)
As in a lot of editing, in the process of winnowing the blog to 30 entries, some good ideas got swept aside, chief among them perhaps bacon (though Alton Brown certainly has that covered), gnocchi (which, fortunately, we do not have to wonder about; it can be done) and pierogi (which have been done at least a couple of times — with enough people it's even a party).
I'm certain there are more that I'm missing, some that were part of the poll but didn't finish first and some that didn't make that short list to begin with. If an idea that you were pulling for didn't make it onto the blog, I'm sorry. I try not to disappoint people but sometimes it happens anyway.
I can only say that there is one more post after this one. Maybe it will be the one you were hoping to see on this blog.
Though I rather doubt it.
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With the blog heading off into the sunset, I answered a few questions for Michael Gebert over on Grub Street.