This recipe came about because of a craving: I was thinking about crispy, cornmeal-encrusted fried okra and wondered how it might taste with cheese sauce drizzled on top.
(Okay, so I don’t daydream about steamed veggies and low-fat dressing. Now you know.)
That led to thoughts of making cheese sauce, which led ineluctably to elbow macaroni. And then…you guessed it!…a new culinary sensation was born: Okra-Roni & Cheese!
Yeah, well… even I knew the name was just a tad too weird to be appetizing to anyone but me, so Fried Okra Mac & Cheese it became. But it’s damned good stuff no matter what you call it!
The recipe uses a ridiculously delicious cheese sauce to bridge the gap between the pasta and the fried okra. The cornmeal-encrusted okra holds up its end of the bargain by staying crisp under pressure (or, in this case, under cheese sauce), and the pimentos bring an appealing sweetness to the proceedings.
Here’s a photo of the Fried Okra Mac and Cheese below.
1 lb elbow macaroni
Oil for frying
4 cups frozen breaded okra (see Cook’s Note)
1/4 cup chopped scallion (green and white parts)
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup water
4 oz cream cheese
8 oz mild cheddar, grated
Salt & fresh ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground sage
1/2 cup diced pimento (or diced pickled red pepper)
Cook the elbow macaroni in salted water according to package directions. While the elbows are cooking, heat 1/4 - 1/2 inch of oil in a deep skillet. Fry the okra pieces in batches to keep the oil temp from dropping too low. When golden brown, drain the okra on paper toweling. Keep the okra warm in a low oven.
Drain the elbows well and keep warm. In a large saucepan, saute the chopped scallion in the butter for 3 - 5 minutes until tender. Add the milk, chicken broth, and water and bring to a simmer. Cut the cream cheese in chunks and gently whisk them into the milk mixture until fully melted. Add the cheddar a small handful at a time, allowing cheese to melt before stirring and adding more.
Pour the cheese sauce over the hot pasta and mix gently. Adjust salt and add black pepper and sage (if using). Fold in the fried okra and the pimentos, saving some of each for garnish, if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 8 - 10 servings.
I used frozen, pre-breaded okra (a Southern staple) for this recipe, but fresh is always better: just rinse and dry the okra pods, and allow them to air dry completely before cutting them into 1/2 inch pieces. Dip the pieces in beaten egg and dredge them in seasoned cornmeal. Fry as above.
Please join us tomorrow to read our new recipe for Chimichurri Shrimp Cups With Roasted Garlic Marscapone, a romantic and delicious recipe just in time for Valentine’s Day.
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