T.G.I. Friday's Fried Mac & Cheese
By Todd Wilbur
Menu Description: "Irresistible, creamy cheeses and elbow noodles golden fried to perfection."
When T.G.I. Friday's vice president of research and development Phil Costner was in Las Vegas at Fix restaurant in the Bellagio in 2006, he tried a version of this fantastic finger food and immediately went to work locating a supplier to develop the dish for his chain of 550 restaurants. Now Fried Mac & Cheese is one of seven "radically new" finger foods on Friday's appetizer menu that includes Crispy Green Bean Fries, Potato Skinny Dippers and Triple Meat Fundido. After several hours in the underground lab I decided on a couple ways to approach this particular clone. Since Friday's Fried Mac & Cheese is made with a blend of cheeses, I'll first show you how to make fried mac and cheese from scratch using Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses. And for those of you who love shortcuts, head on down to the Tidbits at the bottom of the recipe and I'll show you how to clone the appetizer much faster using frozen Stouffer's Macaroni & Cheese.
Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.
This recipe is available in
Macaroni & Cheese
- 5 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1 cup (3 ounces) shredded medium Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup (3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 2 teaspoons margarine
- 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup cooked elbow macaroni (about 1 3/4 cups uncooked)
- margarine for greasing pan
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs (Progresso works well)
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 to 10 cups vegetable shortening or oil
- 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
- Do This
1. Whisk flour into skim milk in a small saucepan, then place it over medium/low heat.
2. Add shredded cheeses, margarine and salt and stir often with a spoon until the cheese begins to melt. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Use a whisk to stir the sauce every couple of minutes so that it becomes smooth and thick.
3. While the sauce thickens, prepare macaroni by dumping 3/4 of a cup of uncooked elbow macaroni into rapidly boiling water. Boil for 8 minutes or until tender, and then strain. You should have at least 1 3/4 cups of cooked macaroni.
4. When cheese sauce has simmered for 30 minutes, reserve 2 tablespoons of the sauce, and then pour the pasta into a medium bowl. Gently stir in the remaining cheese sauce, and then pour the mixture into an 8x8-inch pan that has been greased with margarine. Cover and chill.
5. When the macaroni & cheese is cold, use a knife to cut down four times and across four times for a total of 25 macaroni & cheese chunks. Carefully remove the squares, arrange them on wax paper and put them into a covered container in the freezer for a couple hours.
6. When the macaroni & cheese is frozen solid, combine the beaten egg and milk in one shallow bowl, pour flour into another shallow bowl, and combine the bread crumbs and 3/4 teaspoon salt in another bowl. Heat shortening or oil to 350 degrees F.
7. Bread the macaroni & cheese one-at-time by coating a piece with flour, then dunking it into the egg and milk mixture and coating it with bread crumbs. Dunk the chunk of macaroni & cheese back into the egg and milk and give it another coating of breadcrumbs. Repeat this process with all of the macaroni & cheese chunks and arrange them on a plate. Let them sit for 10 minutes so that they can defrost a little bit—this will ensure that the mac & cheese isn't cold inside after the frying. When all of the macaroni & cheese is breaded, fry 4 to 6 at a time in the hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown (you may want to do a test with just one at first so that you can be sure it's warm all the way through). Drain the fried mac & cheese on a rack or paper towels for a minute or two after you pull them out of the oil, then arrange all of the finished fried mac & cheese pieces on a plate. Microwave the remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese sauce for 15 to 20 seconds or until hot. Drizzle this cheese sauce over the top of the fried mac & cheese, sprinkle the dish with parsley, and serve.
Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer.
Tidbits: If you'd like a shortcut for this clone, get yourself two 12-ounce boxes of frozen Stouffer's Macaroni & Cheese and let them defrost in the refrigerator. When the mac & cheese is soft, slice lengthwise through the middle of each tray, then slice across three times so that you have 8 rectangles in each tray. Carefully take those slices out, arrange them on wax paper and store them in the freezer until solid, then pick up the recipe at step #6. Using this technique will not give you any extra cheese sauce to drizzle over the top, so you'll have to skip that step at the end.
I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker
For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.