Recipe: Basic Cheese Sauce

I don't know about anyone else, but  I really like macaroni and cheese.  Yes, the blue box used to be a staple around here, especially when the kids were younger.  But the more I cook, the more I want to learn how to make things I love.  So after the success with the noodles, I yearned for homemade cheese sauce.

In my quest, I researched homemade cheese sauce.  And by "research" I mean I read several recipes on the Internet, watched videos of people making cheese sauce, and I even read through a few cookbooks.  In the end, I discovered that making a good cheese sauce it amazingly easy.

First, you make a roux (pronounced "roo") in a skillet on the stove.  When I heard about a roux, I felt very ignorant.  It took a few minutes before I learned that a roux is a mixed of equal parts melted butter and flour.  That's it.  You melt butter in a skillet, then add the same amount of flour and stir.

Seriously, why couldn't they come up with a name that sounds more ordinary?

Then, you add a milk product to the roux to form a base.  The milk product can be cream, half-n-half, or whole milk.  I do not recommend using skim milk, because you need the milk fat.

At this point, you have now made a bechamel or white sauce.  You can add salt or other flavorings to this sauce, and simply serve it as is.  Or, you can add cheese.

I recommend adding shredded cheese to the white sauce, since it will melt faster if shredded.  Some recipes recommend removing the skillet from the heat before adding the cheese, but I tend to just turn the heat to low.  Adding the cheese removes a bunch of heat from the sauce suddenly, so I keep the pan on low heat to ensure that the mixture stays hot enough.

If I'm making an Italian cheese sauce, sometimes I add chicken broth to the roux before I add the milk product.  The broth adds flavor, which the sauce needs since several of the Italian cheese don't have a strong enough flavor by themselves.

If your cheese sauce seems too thick, you can add water.  Or add pasta directly from the pan, and include some of the pasta water.  If your cheese sauce seems too thin, add more cheese.

Bon Appetít!

Basic Cheese Sauce

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. Butter
3 Tbsp. Flour
1 1/2 c.  Cream
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 c. Shredded Cheese

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a skillet.
  2. Add flour to the butter and stir until the flour is completely mixed in.
  3. Add cream and  salt.  
  4. Stir constantly for about five minutes.
  5. Add shredded cheese, stirring until melted in.
Serve with noodles or rice.



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