Sports Night fans, take note: it’s not just Dan that has hideous cheese blunders.
Last night, I was making homemade macaroni and cheese for dinner. Some easy comfort food, since the weather has been so bitter and cold, seemed like a good idea. And I was really looking forward to it, because I love a good mac and cheese. So, I went and picked up groceries yesterday and began to prepare. I prepped everything ahead of time, because I wanted to get a lot done yesterday (as it turns out, I did NOT, because Opus was seeming to be a bit off — but that is another story for another day.)
So I went down to the kitchen last evening to start making the meal. I got the macaroni cooked and in a colander, draining. I began the sauce with a roux, butter and onion and flour, and then added milk. I used skim milk (that’s all we drink ’round here) so it seemed like FOREVER for it to begin to thicken up, but eventually it did. So far, so good. I started adding in the shredded cheese by the handful, stirring and melting, stirring and melting. And then, disaster.
The sauce broke. If ever you’ve made a cream sauce and it breaks, you know what I am talking about. Your nice, creamy sauce becomes a sort-of-curdled-looking mess. So you stir harder, and keep the heat up. Still it was broken. So I did what every chef in a crisis does when something goes wrong — I called Mom.
With Mom on speakerphone, we tried EVERYTHING. More heat. Less heat. Whisking. Nothing was working. And then, we retraced my steps, and I realized: I had made a Hideous Cheese Blunder.
See, the recipe called for 1.5 cups of cheddar and 1.5 cups of American cheese. Well, here in Canada, we don’t have American cheese (at least, not that I know of). I needed something besides cheddar, because 3 cups of cheddar can get fairly oily. As I recalled from my days at university in the U.S., American cheese was kind of a smooth, bland white cheese. So it had to be the same sort of white cheese, not too pungent or anything. And I needed something fairly reasonably priced, because we’re on a budget and I didn’t want to spend tons. So when I was preparing the cheese, I thought, “Okay, what’s another bland white cheese I could use?”
Well, what’s the most common white cheese in most grocery stores? Of course. Mozzarella.
So I prepared 2, maybe 2 1/2 cups of cheddar, and about 2/3 cup of mozzarella. And when I started adding the cheese in, things were fine. Cheddary goodness melting and getting creamy. More cheddar. More cheesy goodness. Finally, the mozzarella.
And that’s when it broke. The whole thing bound up like a warthog after a cheese dinner. It became a gloppy, rubbery, congealed mess. Almost instantly, the mozzarella bound the whole thing up, and the liquid floated to the top. It was awful. Try as I might, there was no way I was working that stuff back into a nice, smooth sauce. So, I pitched the whole thing in the garbage, called BDH, and had him pick up subs on his way home.
The moral of the story? All white cheeses are NOT created equal.