Remember when a plate of mac’n’cheese was a snack your mum put together? And the only other place you could find it was a supermarket freezer?
“I personally think the classics are making a comeback,” says Terri Tep. She would know – Tep is the chef behind The Dandenong Pavilion, Royal Stacks and The Grand Trailer Park Taverna, a trio of restaurants united by their mastery of comfort foods such as burgers, parmas, wraps and the humble mac’n’cheese. “We’ve all had our fair share of exotic foods, whether it be in fancy restaurants or travelling the world,” says Tep. “But nothing really feeds our souls more than the food we grew up eating as kids or what Mum use to make.”
Led by the craft-beer movement’s reimagining of the standard ale, these once-lamented dishes of our youth are being revived by a new generation of chefs eager to put their spin on familiar recipes. It’s nostalgia, says Tep: “The simple mac’n’cheese duo is a reminder of our treasured pastimes.” It’s just that Tep’s version of the dish includes deep-frying it into a croquette.
“We started making [the deep-fried croquettes] at Dandenong Pavilion,” she says. “We came up with a recipe that was easy to make while maintaining the integrity of the amazing cheesy flavour. The inspiration was simply that everybody likes fried food.” It’s a new twist that doesn’t destroy the original unpretentious charm of mac’n’cheese.
Tep says her croquettes are the best standalone snack to pair with a nice beer. “My perfect scenario of eating a mac’n’cheese croquette,” says Tep, “is to be on one of Melbourne's rooftop bars on a nice summer’s day with a bottle of beer in my hand.” Tep’s bonus tip? “I’d be dipping my mac’n’cheese croquette in truffle mayo.” We recommend pairing these snacks with a bottle of James Squire One Fifty Lashes. It's a crisp pale ale that cuts through the creamy cheese, for a light and balanced combination.
Terri Tep’s recipe for the perfect beer snack – the mac’n’cheese croquette
30gm butter, diced
50gm plain flour
650ml full-cream milk
100gm shredded mozzarella
250gm shredded tasty cheese
1.25kg sliced cheddar cheese (American-style burger cheese is ideal, Tep says)
¼ cup water
1 tsp table salt
¼ tsp white pepper
Melt butter in a pot over low heat. Add the flour and combine into a roux. Add half the milk and stir until smooth. Add the remaining milk, salt and pepper while constantly stirring. Heat the mixture without letting it boil, then add the cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted, then take the pot off the heat.
Fill a big pot with salted water and bring to the boil. Once the water is boiling, add pasta and stir sporadically. Cook for eight minutes or until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Place the cooked cheese sauce and pasta in a large bowl or container (something with a wide surface will make it easier to mix), and mix until evenly combined. Place mixture in a baking dish with sides, making sure the mixture is smooth and even across the top. Directly cover the mixture with baking paper (this will prevent a hard skin from forming) and place in the fridge for approximately two hours to set. Once set, take two tablespoons of the mixture and roll into a tight ball, then press down to form a hamburger-patty shape. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
2 cups plain flour
2½ cups water
4 cups panko crumbs or coarse breadcrumbs
Whisk the eggs into the water. Place the flour, crumbs and egg wash into three different bowls. Take your mac’n’cheese balls and dip them in the flour, dusting off any excess. Then dip the balls into the egg wash, before finally coating them in crumbs, making sure to cover every piece of pasta.
Cooking the croquettes
Heat oil to 180 degrees Celsius in a deep-fryer, wok or appropriate pot. Gently place a couple of croquettes at a time into the oil and cook for approximately two minutes or until golden brown. Remove the croquettes and place onto kitchen paper to soak up any remaining oil.
This article is part of Broadsheet’s [Craft Beer Quarterly], produced in partnership with James Squire.