Before picking up Ellen Brown's Mac & Cheese, I assumed all fried macaroni and cheese must be breaded and deep-fried a la Paula Deen. But the Skillet-Fried Cheddar Mac and Cheese, adapted from Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, is a far more delicate affair. The sauce is made exclusively with raw-milk cheddar, and the final fry is in a tablespoon, rather than a couple quarts, of oil. This step exists for the sole purpose of creating large crispy pieces of cheese akin to Italian frico. It certainly takes a leap of faith to dump a pot of cheesy pasta into a skillet of hot oil, but this dish is totally worth the jump.
Why I picked this recipe: The promise of caramelized crunchy bites of cheese and the drama of frying what many assume shouldn't be fried drew me in.
What worked: I had my doubts when I dumped the macaroni and sauce into a skillet of hot oil, and they increased when the cheese appeared just to boil and ooze for what seemed like and eternity. But have faith—this actually works, and the crispy frico-like pieces of cheese are straight-up awesome.
What didn't: Be sure to fry the mac and cheese in a ripping hot skillet; I was a little timid at first, but shouldn't've have been. The cheese needs the heat to crisp properly.
Suggested tweaks: The Zingerman's menu lists a number of variations; the pimento bacon macaroni and shiitake mushroom macaroni sound particularly good.