Whether you want to dial up your mac and cheese or make an easy hot cheese dip for the party, here's how it's done.
If there’s a simple technique that every home cook should master, it’s probably making a really good cheese sauce.
Just think of the possibilities! Macaroni and cheese, Tex-Mex queso, casseroles ... all of them become very possible once you master how to make cheese sauce.
Luckily, it’s not so hard. It just requires a few basic ingredients: Butter, flour, milk and cheese, of course!
You start the sauce by making a roux, which is a fancy word for a butter and flour paste. Add the butter to a medium pot over medium heat and whisk in the flour as the butter melts.
Keep a close eye on this as it can burn, but you want it to turn a light tan color and it will smell really nutty when it’s at the right point. This photo shows it about perfect.
Once the paste gets to this point you whisk in the milk. This is the part that scares some people. If you add the milk too fast, you’ll end up with lumps in your sauce.
But it’s more forgiving than you would think. Start by warming your milk just a bit – that helps. And then don’t dump the milk in all at once. Whisking it in as a slow stream is the way to go.
Start by adding about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of the milk and see what the sauce is like. You might need another 1/2 cup of milk if the sauce is super thick, but start with a smaller amount of milk.
When the sauce is done, it will be thick like the consistency of gravy. Many recipes will use the sauce just like this (scalloped potatoes, for example).
Of course, we're taking it a step further by adding a boatload of cheese to it!
Whisk in the cheese until it melts into a smooth, thick sauce and then season that sauce with salt and pepper.
You can use this sauce with SO many recipes but feel free to change up the cheese. Almost any cheese that melts well will work great in this sauce.
To make delicious homemade mac and cheese, just cook up some pasta, then add the cheese sauce.
Go forth and slather things in cheese!
Nick is always up for anything with a cheese sauce. Check out his blog, Macheesmo, and follow him on his Tablespoon Profile.