Yesterday was the Official 900th Anniversary of the birth of Le Gruyere AOP, an Alpine-Style Cheese protected by the EU. To celebrate I made a “Basic Cheese Sauce” using Emmi Le Gruyere, along with Saxon Creamery’s Big Ed’s Gouda… I poured it over some noodles, using Orecchiette; those “ears” hold the sauce so well… and ta da… mac n cheese… the ultimate comfort food, to welcome the cooler weather here in Georgia which promises fall is finally coming…
After years of messing around and experimenting with cheese sauce recipes, I finally developed one that is easy and turns out perfect EVERY time… the only variations are the cheeses I choose.
My one rule is that one of the cheeses must be a “melter”; a cheese that melts well and holds the sauce together…if you only use a cheddar, for example, you may experience a separation of some of the butterfat… this doesn’t affect the taste, necessarily, but it’s just not as pretty. I, for one, want my food to be pretty, in addition to tasting good which means I have a second rule… I only use real, quality natural cheese…of which there are hundreds to choose, making your cheese sauce taste different every time and your combinations limitless.
1/2 Cup European-Style Butter, such as Plugra
1/2 Cup Flour
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Pepper (or to taste)
1/8 Teaspoon Nutmeg (or to taste)
4 Cups of Whole Milk (or to make it richer use some Half n Half)
8 Ounces Gruyere (or other melting cheese), Shredded
8 Ounces Sax Creamery’s Big Ed’s Gouda (or cheese of your choice), Shredded
Optional for Noodle Dishes: red pepper flakes, peas, bacon, diced chicken, shrimp, diced ham, lobster, green onions (anything you like to add to your mac n cheese).
Tip: Cheese geeks tend to end up with odds and ends of cheeses in the fridge; this is a great way to use and enjoy them when one piece is not enough for what you need. (Also works well when making grilled cheese sammies – the ooey, gooier, the better…)
Shred your cheeses; toss together and set aside.
Melt butter in large saucepan.
Slowly add flour and cook on low-medium heat until mixture starts to turn brown (but not burn), whisking as you go. I use the whisk to slowly add the flour by twirling it in the cup of flour which seems to sort of aerate the flour. (This will take several minutes and gets rid of the “floury” taste.)
Slowly add the milk (or milk mixture) and whisk constantly until mixture begins to thicken. This should take about 5 minutes but no more than 10.
Turn-off the heat.
Add the cheese and mix until cheese is melted.
Use this sauce for recipes from mac n cheese to potatoes au gratin to cheese fries or drizzle over fresh apple pies. It keeps well in the fridge for several days.
You can bake your mac n cheese if you like it that way. My mom prefers it “soupy” so I just mix a lot of sauce with the noodles and serve. If you choose to bake; 350°F for about 20 minutes should do the trick. You can also add panko crumbs or bread crumbs to the top and finish with a couple of minutes under the broiler for a nice golden brown.
Beware… this recipe makes a lot of sauce; you can easily cut it in half for smaller families and appetites…
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