Quick Chipotle Cheese Sauce
Do you ever want a sauce to dress up a meal? Something to put over plain rice? A bit of cheese sauce to perk up the last of the broccoli?
Have you ever opened an envelope of commercial dry sauce mix because making it from scratch seemed too hard at the moment, or would take too long?
I had a bunch of odds and ends to make dinner from. A little broccoli. Some slightly past its prime cauliflower. (For various reasons, we’ve been acquiring cauliflower from several sources lately. We like it, but it feels as if we’ve had our year’s allotment in three weeks… and it all came at once, and one large head was not that fresh when we got it, and… this did need a little help.) Cooked rice, of course…
A cheese sauce? That’s a classic combination with cruciferous vegetables, and it’s lovely over rice. And I had a little – but not quite enough – leftover meat, so the additional protein would help the meal, too. How should I season it? I usually use a bit of mustard. I was out of prepared mustard… (How did that happen? Rich?? Oh, yeah, right, he did mention that…) I have whole mustard seed, but the point was to avoid fuss… I have some of the chipotle puree I’ve spoken about before – simply a small can of chipotle in adobo, pureed. It keeps beautifully, and you can use just a little at a time – I’ve been using it in my refried beans for breakfast, as it adds a lovely smokey flavor as well as heat. That should go well with cheddar cheese… (I had some domestic Swiss as well – but the chipotle tipped my choice to cheddar.)
I took a small sauce pan and started to heat a cup of milk over low heat. Got out the chipotle puree, and just used a regular teaspoon to put a blop in (such precise terms I use… but it was, in fact, just about a measuring teaspoon, and your measurements will vary by your preferred degree of heat.) If you prefer, you can certainly use prepared mustard for this… again, somewhere around a teaspoon, varied by both your own preference for heat and in that case, the heat of the mustard.
Then I took out 2 roux cubes. I wanted a fairly thick sauce, as I was making it seriously part of the meal. If you just want a drizzle of cheesy goodness over your broccoli, you might use just one. (ETA: See note below… 2 works better.) And I cut them in half, to make them dissolve more easily.
Now – looking at my original post you might notice that these look different… I made the original ones with whole wheat, as I have for years. I’d started wondering about options, though… Some people don’t like the taste of whole wheat, some don’t like the way it looks in a white sauce, and, of course, some can’t eat wheat. And I wondered how well different flours would work – and also, how would the flavors affect the food made with them? What is the most neutral flavor, if you just want one kind? What flour would enhance some foods, possibly even enough that it would be worth making cubes in that flavor for a sauce or gravy you make frequently? (I’m starting to lean strongly to buckwheat roux cubes for beef gravy… but I’ve only tried a few kinds so far.)
Anyhow – I made these with the fine stone ground corn meal I was using for muffins. When I was making the cubes, and cooking the flour in that process, I thought the corn smelled delicious, so it seemed they would be nice for a chili cheese sauce. I did smell it very slightly while I was heating the sauce, but if there was any flavor addition it was pretty subtle – the stronger flavors of chipotle and cheese largely drowned it out. Worth trying…
So, anyhow… I had a small pot of milk over low heat, and had stirred in the chipotle puree. I dropped in the roux cubes, and stirred every minute or so. Meanwhile, I cut up about 2 ounces of cheddar – a fairly lightly flavored sauce, you could double that without it being too much… Kept a close eye on the milk, and stirred often, as that seems to help the roux melt gradually off the cubes without lumps – and I find it can thicken pretty abruptly. (I find it amusing that the chipotle made the milk slightly pink… and then the corn started to add yellow to turn the whole thing orange even before adding the cheese!)
As soon as it started to thicken, I started stirring constantly, and added the cheese in 2-3 parts. Stirred until everything was melted, and the sauce was nice and thick, and then turned the heat off.
There. Chipotle cheese sauce in under 5 minutes. No harder than a dry mix – just add the ingredients to milk and stir… I really liked the chipotle flavor. It added a nice smokiness as well as a little zing. I’ll still use mustard, often, since we like that too, but I’m adding this to my list. Now, you don’t have to add either – though in that case I would definitely add more cheese, or it will be bland… It really depends on what you and your family like, and what you will serve it with.
In the pictures, this looks a little grainy. It didn’t taste or feel that way… Part of that is flecks of chipotle, but I’m also wondering if some of it might have been the corn… (ETA: No. Not the corn. See Below…) The alternate grain roux cubes are Not Ready for Prime time – I’ll have questions like that answered before I post about them. Today I just grabbed what I had… my other choice was buckwheat, which I did not think would work well, here – too assertive. Assuming that what you have in your freezer is wheat, since that’s what I wrote about before, that will work perfectly well. (You don’t have roux cubes in your freezer? What are you waiting for?)
Edited to Add: I made it again, but with only one roux cube, for a thinner sauce – and I figured out the graininess…
The pureed chipotle is actually chipotle in adobo. I’d forgotten that adobo sauce is made with vinegar – which curdled the milk… The roux helped stabilize it, so there was just the touch of a grainy look with my first batch – but when I made it with only half as much roux, I got little hard lumps. Per Rich – it tasted good, but the texture was annoying…
Now – mustard, which I’ve used for this often, also has vinegar – but much less, and I’ve never had any problem. Come to think of it, I’ve usually added it at the end, too – after the roux had already stabilized the sauce… and I think that helps. I’m not sure why I reversed order this time, but I’m going to go into the recipe card and reverse it right back… This tasted much too good to abandon… but it will work best as a thick sauce, with the flavoring added at the end.
Sorry about that. Usually I don’t post something until I’ve done it a few times (unless it’s a seasonal food I may not get again in time) – and I’ve made the mustard version often enough… but the variation varied more than I realized.
It was still really good… but use 2 cubes per cup of milk, and add the chipotle at the end for best results.
Make a chipotle cheese sauce in five minutes to dress up plain vegetables or grains, using a convenient pre-made roux cube.
- 1 c milk
- 2 roux cubes
- 2 oz cheddar cheese, cut up
- 1 t chipotle puree (puree a can of chipotle in adobo)
- Put milk in a small saucepan.
- Add roux cubes. Place over medium heat, stirring frequently.
- As sauce thickens, add cheese, and stir until smooth. Stir in chipotle puree.
- Serve over vegetables, rice, corn bread...