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OPINION: A clueless sports fan recreates AT&T Stadium’s Cheetos Mac N Cheese Balls



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The final product of my recreation of AT&T Stadium’s Cheetos Mac N Cheese Balls. Bradley Hohulin

Like the American flag on the moon or the boot prints on the peaks of Mount Everest, the Cheetos Mac N Cheese Balls at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium represent mankind’s propensity to push the limits of what is deemed possible.

This dish is the invention of a species that decided carbs laden with fat were not sufficient and thus must be coated in more carbs — Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, specifically — and fried in more fat. 

Since I will not be attending any sporting events in the foreseeable future, I sought to bring the flavors of the game to my own home. My utter lack of athleticism has never hindered my love of sports, so my cluelessness in the kitchen was not going to stand in the way of making this monstrosity.

The macaroni and cheese itself was nothing intricate. All it took was milk, water, elbow pasta and a block of sharp cheddar chopped to bits by a young man with nary a cheese grater to his name. Stirring the thick mass before me, I felt a pang of guilt knowing the horrors to which I would soon subject it.

The initial batch of macaroni and cheese was a perfect 10-minute weeknight meal. However, it was destined for a much darker, greasier fate. Bradley Hohulin

I enjoyed a helping of the untainted delicacy to myself, then used as little as necessary of what was left to form crude spheres, putting them on a tray in the freezer to harden. 

Meanwhile, I prepared the jalapeño ranch with which AT&T Stadium dresses its Mac N Cheese Balls. 

A proper recipe for this sauce from Taste of Home extends far beyond the narrow reaches of my spice cabinet, so I made do with Greek yogurt, olive oil, garlic salt, sugar and a finely minced jalapeño pepper. The resulting mixture ultimately resembled something between mayonnaise and the ooze from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Roughly 45 minutes later, the hour of reckoning was upon me. I placed a few handfuls of Cheetos in a Ziploc bag and mangled it until only vibrant red powder remained, beat an egg in a bowl and began heating a small pot of canola oil.

Then, it was a simple matter of dousing the macaroni in egg wash, rolling it in Cheeto crumbs and repeating this process to ensure a thick, sturdy crust. 

Once I touched the first ball to the Cheeto dust, I knew there was no going back. Any shred of innocence this wholesome comfort food once held had been mercilessly ripped away by the claws of Chester Cheetah. 

Finally, with a broken heart and an irredeemable soul, I submerged the malformed clump of cheese and starch in a scalding pool of canola oil. I watched the craggy orb hiss and sputter while bubbles rocketed upward like tormented spirits in the River Styx.

Frankly, I deserved to get burned by the oil. I don’t mean I was being careless, but rather some higher power should have immediately punished me for my transgressions at that moment.

Hot oil crackled and bubbled as the Mac N Cheese Ball completed its crispy transfiguration.

However, no such judgment befell me and I was free to enjoy what I could of my creation. I nestled each orange pearl atop the macaroni and cheese, drizzled the plate in jalapeño ranch and garnished it with more Cheeto crumbs. 

One stroke of a table knife and a couple Hail Marys later, my tongue was reminded of an ageless American truth — that which is cheesy and deep-fried usually tastes really, really good.

A crunchy Cheeto exterior gave way to a smooth, velvety interior. Jalapeño ranch filled the nooks and crannies of the noodles left unoccupied by melted cheese, seamlessly juxtaposing hot and crispy with cool and creamy.

What surprised me most was the ball’s structural integrity. I expected it to collapse in a cascade of molten cheese but was instead greeted by a convenient hand-held treat.

Hot oil crackled and bubbled as the Mac n Cheese Ball completed its crispy transfiguration. Bradley Hohulin

Obviously, there are easier ways to accumulate plaque in your arteries. But this was a lot more fun than injecting myself with a syringe full of maple syrup. 

My only real complaint with this meal is that it is served over its own trough of macaroni and cheese. As I discovered, these make for excellent finger food, an advantage completely nullified by the loose noodles underneath. The last thing I wanted to eat after fried macaroni and cheese was slightly less greasy macaroni and cheese. 

In the future, perhaps AT&T Stadium can consider pairing this menu item with a bed of leafy greens, a long jog or a quick coronary bypass.

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