Basic Cheese Sauce

Like a classic pearl necklace, I’m a fan of those basic recipes that afford me the opportunity to dress up or dress down and reinterpret throughout the week.

Basic cheese sauce is one of those classics. Dress up your breakfast casserole by calling it “Mornay sauce” and drizzle it on as a garnish. Dress down your nachos with a bowl of homemade “queso.” And enjoy it several times throughout the week as a base for mac&cheese (you’ll never need the blue box again), as a topping for taco night, an oozy accompaniment to paninis, and so much more.

Make a batch ahead of time, save the leftovers in the fridge, and reheat before serving again. Trust me, you can do this.

Basic Cheese Sauce
Yield ~1.25 cups 

3 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons AP flour (or cornstarch, if you want gluten-free)
1 cup milk, preferably room temperature
1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, swiss/Gruyere, pepperjack, parmesan, or a mixture of whatever you’ve got)

1. Melt the butter in a small saucepot over medium heat. Add the flour, and whisk together until flour is incorporated and mixture is a golden color.

2. Add the milk in a slow stream, whisking all the while. Let the milk heat up, stirring frequently. After about 5 minutes, the mixture should feel thicker as you stir.

3. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and stir in the cheese. It should definitely be thicker now.

Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and/or herbs. See what I mean about multiple ways to enjoy this throughout the week?

Melt butter. Whisk in flour.

Melt butter. Whisk in flour.

Add milk slowly. Stir until heated through and slightly thickened.

Add milk slowly. Stir until heated through and slightly thickened.

Add cheese until melted.

Add cheese. Stir until melted.

Reinterpret over the course of several meals.

Reinterpret over the course of several meals.

“Pearls are always appropriate,” quoth the late Jackie Kennedy. Add this pearl of a recipe to your repertoire. How would you use this versatile cheese sauce? Do tell.

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