Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nachos 101: Nacho Cheese Sauce De-yuck-ified

This isn't your mother's can of toxic bright orange "cheese sauce", this is the real deal. Today you are going to learn to make a perfect cheese sauce from scratch. And it starts with learning to make another sauce, one that has been around likely longer than its namesake, Louis de Béchamel. Béchamel (bay-sha-mel) is a white sauce with three basic ingredients: butter, flour, and milk (or cream). As non-vegan as that sounds, vegans, do not dismay! The sauce can be made subbing a number of oils (I use olive) and alternative milks (I prefer hempseed milk myself, but soy and almond work well too). I used to use wheat flour but now I use an all-purpose gluten-free flour I buy from the bulk bins at my local co-op grocery store. So, make the adjustments according to your own diet and what your body wants. Let's get started...

Nacho, nacho cheeeeeeeeeese!

You'll need everything in the above picture...
- 1 cup grated cheese of choice (something like colby or cheddar)
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 TBSP butter
- 2 TBSP flour
- 2 tsp salt

Now you put the lime in the coconut and shake it all up, you put the... oops. Okay, I'm back after a momentary lapse into my childhood, dancing to mom's records as they spun round and round on the turntable in the dining room. Get a saucepan (there's a reason they're called saucepans after all), turn the burner to medium and add the butter. As soon as the butter has melted add the flour and stir into a paste fairly rapidly (you don't want it to burn), once the paste is nice and mixed together like so...

... begin adding the milk in 1/4 cup increments at a time. Make sure you mix each increment in completely and don't let it get too hot, you don't want to burn anything or scald the milk. When you mix the milk with the flour and butter mixture over the heat it magically thickens, much like cheese sauce, but not quite-- unlike what history has attempted in giant school cafeteria cans, you cannot have cheese sauce without cheese. Once the milk is all mixed in, turn the heat down to low and begin adding the cheese, stirring it in to melt as you add it. Now you have cheese sauce. Congratulations! Add the salt to taste.

For simple nachos, put a handful of chips in a bowl, heat a can of pinto or black beans on the stove and put some beans on the chips, then pour on the nacho cheese... I like to add chopped cilantro to mine. In the photo I also added finely chopped romaine lettuce. You might like to add avocado slices, diced tomato or jalepeño to yours.

Here are a couple more ideas for this sauce. You can make a healthier homemade version of the ever-sinful concoction known as "chili-cheese fries". Bake fries in the oven and then top with your own homemade chili or a can of Amy's vegetarian chili (or something similar... you'll have to make-do with this for now, I won't be sharing my super-easy, super-good vegan/vegetarian chili recipe with you for another few weeks yet, at least)... where were we?... oh, yes, ADD THE CHEESE SAUCE! That's always a good place to be. Doesn't it just make you want to do a song and dance number? "Cheeeeeeese, cheeeeeeese..... sauce!!" Or the K-pop-esque... "Oppan cheese sauce style!" Another use of this sauce is to steam carrots, cauliflower and broccoli and then toss them with CHEESE SAUCE! Bwah hah hah! Now, before I become too maniacal on account of the cheese sauce, I'm going to leave you to your own imaginations and CHEEEEEESE SAUCE...  xoSP

1 comment:

  1. Hello dears... and especially all of you vegan dears... SP here. My philosopher-writer-editor buddy, Eric, graciously pointed out I left you all hanging on "cheese recommendations for the vegan version! The way I see it is there are a few ways you can handle the no-cheese "cheese" dilemma. One, you can breakdown and buy a vegan cheese that's on the market. Daiya melts very well and comes in pre-shred packets, cheddar and pepper jack styles work well with the cheese sauce recipe. OR, you can get totally way-out and creative and do something such as the following. Add some turmeric (maybe a Tablespoon), primarily for color, but turmeric also has some AWESOME health benefits, and add some extra salt. When you think about it, cheese is really about the consistency, the color... and that tinge of salty flavor. Enjoy!