Cheese sauce can be tough for beginning cooks to master. Lumps and cheese curdling are two of the biggest problems.
This is a basic cheese sauce that will work for macaroni and cheese, nachos, broccoli and cauliflower, fries, as an additive to casseroles, to use for sandwiches, and more.
This sauce can have things added to it, once prepared, that can enhance its flavor, such as Tabasco, more cheese like Velveeta or Cheez Wiz, herbs, and other seasonings.
You will need the following:
- 4 tbs. all purpose flour (1/4 cup)
- 1/4 cup salted butter (1/2 stick)
- 2 cups COLD milk or half and half (preferred)
- 8 oz. mild shredded cheddar cheese, or block cheese cut in very small chunks, or shredded *
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- pinch of nutmeg
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- Shredded cheese in plastic bags you buy at the store has additives to prevent the cheese from clumping. If you look closely at it, you will see a fine film of a powdery substance coating the cheese. Block cheese does not have the additives, and produces a better, natural, creamier cheese sauce.
- The roux (pronounced roo or rue) consists of equal amounts of butter and flour.
- Melt butter over a low heat.
- Stir in the flour.
- From now on you will be constantly stirring for the next 5 minutes. The whisk will help prevent lumps from forming. The 5 minutes helps reduce the flour flavor that too many cheese sauces wind up with.
- Begin adding the milk or cream 1/4 cup at a time. Stir constantly.
- Do not add the next 1/4 cup until the sauce is thickened.
- This process may seem tedious, but you will be happy with the result at the end.
- Once all the milk/cream has been added, continue to cook the sauce over the lowest heat possible, stirring occasionally.
- After the sauce has cooked 8-10 minutes since you addded the last 1/4 cup, remove the sauce from the heat.
- (Congratulations, you have just cooked one of the Five Mother Sauces in French cooking - Bechamel Sauce - pronounced besh-a -mel. Look at you!)
- Anyway, promptly add the cheese and stir until it's incorporated.
- Do not cook the cheese sauce, or it will get grainy or curdle.
- Add salt to taste, along with the nutmeg and cayenne pepper.
- This is your basic sauce, to which you can add more cheese if you want. Make sure it's room temp and shredded.