Friday, May 4, 2012

Funk Cure

Never underestimate the value of cheese sauce. You might be tempted to think of it as a plain jane condiment but I'm here to tell you that good, homemade cheese sauce can save your life. Or your day. Or, at least, your dinner.

Last week, I was in a dinner funk. I had good ingredients but little or no enthusiasm. I can't tell you why but the whole thing just seemed kind of absurd, this 3X daily need to stoke the furnace and the 3X daily need to prepare something with which to stoke it. I found myself wishing for some futuristic tube of food-like stuff that could be just squeezed out and sucked up with no more effort than unscrewing a cap.

Then I realized that, sadly, that already exists in the world in several formats. They are all tasteless and ultimately bad for you, so I gave myself a mental shake and an imaginary slap across both cheeks, and headed for the kitchen to see what I could find.

In the crisper drawer, a head of broccoli and a few spuds. In the cheese bin, a nice, nutty, tangy Gruyere. It was the work of a moment to slick the spuds with olive oil and set them to bake in a moderate oven. Then peeled the stems and cut up the broccoli into florets for a brief steaming. And cheese sauce from the Gruyere to top the veggies and turn them from mundane to killer in a single, long, luscious pour.

I usually use cheddar for a cheese sauce - cheddar is my go-to cheese for most things - but now that I have discovered Gruyere sauce, I'm sold. It's less homey than cheddar, a Gallic wink and shrug of a cheese sauce, a little sassy and unexpected.

Even My Beloved, who is a dedicated carnivore, will occasionally relish a dinner without meat; he smiled at my concoction. We shared stories about our day while we swiped brilliant green florets and crisped potatoes through the pale, creamy sauce. It's a good way to end a funky sort of day.

Simple, Easy, Classic, Killer Cheese Sauce

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
Shredded cheese to taste (Gruyere is great, cheddar is delish, but you could use just about any firm cheese that melts well)

Over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter foams, sprinkle in the flour and cook, whisking, until it is smooth and has cooked in the butter for a minute or two without browning. (The cooking step is important - otherwise, your sauce will taste floury and flat). 

Add the milk a little at a time, stirring like crazy, as the sauce will thicken very quickly. Whisk until all lumps are gone, then add a little more milk and whisk like crazy again and again until all the milk is smoothly incorporated into the sauce. 

Add the grated cheese, as much as you like, tasting frequently (be careful not to burn your tongue!), until you reach what tastes perfect to you. I don't measure the cheese, just keep adding until it tastes rich and cheesy - depends a lot on which cheese you use.

You can do this ahead and reheat the sauce gently, stirring frequently, until it is molten again. Mysteriously, that increases the flavor, too.


Blogger Greg said...

Oh yeah pour on the cheese sauce!! Yum yum yum...That is the recipe for so many good things.

Friday, May 04, 2012  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Well done. I thought I was looking at a side dish to one of your meat-infused Lucullan feasts. Such restraint.

Friday, May 04, 2012  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Greg, I agree - good for all kinds of good things!

Cookiecrumb, thanks!

Saturday, May 05, 2012  

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