This post on recipe copyrights had me thinking about the simple “recipes” that have perhaps endless variations, but are all basically the same. Cheese sauce is perhaps not quite as easy as boiling water–but nearly so!
Here’s the basics for a medium thick sauce, about what you’d expect from a can of “cream of” soup if you’re used to cooking with those.
Basic Cheese Sauce
- 2 Tbs butter
- 2 Tbs flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- a bit of white pepper if you have it
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup grated cheese
- Melt the butter over medium low heat. You don’t want to burn the butter by cooking too fast, but you don’t want to wait forever either.
- Stir in the flour and cook a minute or two. The flour and butter quickly become this “thing” that has a life of its own. It moves as one. If you’re in a hurry you can skip this minute or two of cooking but I find it adds some good flavor.
- Stir in the milk. The easiest way is actually to microwave the milk during the minute or two you’re cooking the roux, the flour and butter. But it’s not strictly necessary. Just add a bit of milk at a time and stir to incorporate it into the flour and butter before adding more. I don’t mean like a drop or two at a time, but maybe 1/4 cup or so in the beginning, then another 1/4 cup, then the rest in one fell swoop.
- Bring to a simmer. You can turn up the heat if need be and you’re impatient. Watch it though as the milk will burn at a high heat. This should just take a few minutes. Cook a minute or two at a simmer, stirring. It will thicken up nicely. This is your basic white sauce. You’re done.
- For cheese sauce, turn off the heat and add in a cup of grated Cheddar (or 1/2 Cheddar and 1/2 Swiss or something similar depending on what flavor you want and what cheese you have around) and stir until melted through.
Pour over any cooked vegetable, such as broccoli, and your kids will eat it up with no complaints. Or should.
I have a variation of this I use for Welsh Rarebit that I serve over toast for dinner periodically. Sinfully simple and good. It has beer and Worcestershire added. Mmmmm…
When you’re faced with a recipe that calls for a “cream of” soup, use a variation of this. Use chicken broth instead of milk (or half broth and half milk) for cream of chicken. Saute some celery in the butter before adding the flour for cream of celery, mushrooms for cream of mushrooms.
The same process is used for:
and many, many more dishes. The only tricky part is getting the butter and flour to combine, then the liquid (milk or broth). When I first started out I would “curdle” one now and then from having the heat too high. Once you find the right setting on your stove, it’s a piece of cake.