I love macaroni cheese, but the best thing about it, aside from shoveling pasta and sauce down my throat, is making the cheesy sauce to go on top of the macaroni. There’s something about making that creamy white cheese sauce that is so appealing.
I don’t know what it is. Every step is enjoyable.
The melting down of the butter is nice. It’s fun watching a lump of butter slowly shrink down and bubble in its own juices, disappearing into nothing.
The mixing of the flour is fun too. Liquid meets powder, combining, turning into something no longer liquid but not quite solid either. A buttery, floury paste.
The adding of the milk and the beginning of the mixture is slightly frantic, as you need to get everything moving before the paste sticks to the bottom of the pan, or begins to clump up awkwardly.
Watching the mixture begin to heat up, watching it all slowly thicken. Adding some salt and pepper, to taste. Adding more flour and butter if it’s too runny, more milk if it’s too thick.
But then there’s adding the cheese. By far the best bit. The cheese just melts into nothing. Whether you use grated cheese or slices of the stuff, it always seems to just disappear. Yet the cheesiness remains.
Of course there’s the optional steps too. Whisking in the egg yolk is interesting since that too disappears into nothing, but it does leave a faint trace of colour. The same with mustard and anything else you might add.
Today though, something occurred to me. I wondered just how cheesy can you make a cheese sauce? How cheesy can you go, without literally just melting cheese? Because melted cheese really isn’t the same as a white sauce made from a roux. As I cooked dinner (spaghetti bolognaise but with cheese sauce because why the fuck not?) I decided to have a bit of a go. We had lots of cheese in the fridge, so I might as well have tried a little experiment.
I decided to shove as much cheese as possible into my cheese sauce. We had cheese triangles, cheddar and some cheap edam. I think, in the end, I put about 400g of cheese into the sauce.
But the cheese sauce wasn’t… particularly cheesy. I mean, it totally was cheesy. It was very, very cheesy. But considering how about a third of the sauce was cheese, I kinda assumed it would be cheesier. I assume it’s because I mostly used edam, which is what I had the most of, but…
I don’t know. There has to be a maximum level of cheesiness that a cheese sauce can be. But when is a cheese sauce no longer a cheese sauce? When is melted cheese no longer just melted cheese? Actually, that’s pretty easy to answer. As soon as you add something to melted cheese, it’s no longer just cheese. Once you add fruit squash to water, it’s not just water any more. Right?
Still, that cheese sauce I made confused me. As nice as it was. I put a LOT of cheese in that sauce and it really wasn’t as cheesy as expected.
Most likely though, it was just the cheeses I used. Surely, if I had used mostly cheddar rather than mostly edam, it would have been even cheesier. But if I’d used mozzarella or cream cheese, then it would have been even less cheesy.
At the end of the day, cheese is important. But using the right cheese is even more important.