Learning to make a Basic White Sauce (and learning how easy it is) opens up a lot of possibilities in cooking. A long time ago a friend and I were trying to throw together a quick dinner for guests that were coming over. Looking through the fridge and trying to asses what we could possible make with what we had on hand. Being 20 miles from the grocery store sometimes necessitates creativity. We had most of the basic ingredients; meat, cheese, milk, flour, pasta, veg, etc., but nothing fancy. As we looked over the options he looked at me and asked me if I knew how to make a cheese sauce.
My response was a resounding “no.” Then I sat down with a glass of wine and pondered the issue for a moment. I realized actually, yes I do. It was a bit of striking revelation for me that for something so simple as a cheese sauce I didn’t really need a recipe. I knew how to make a basic sauce and cheese sauce is just one simple step beyond that. Problem solved. I think we ended up having pasta with a cheese sauce and some meat and veg or something like that.
Too often people get too attached to recipes never connecting the dots between them. Never coming to understanding the basic methods of cooking, instead relying on the instructions for each individual recipe. Ok I am starting to sound like I watch too much Alton Brown, but I think learning cooking methods allows for creativity and reduces the waste that results from buying ingredients for just one recipe.
Back to the task at hand, Celery with a Cheese Sauce.
Sometimes you need another vegetable side dish, or sometimes there is a really good sale on celery, or sometimes there is some celery leftover in the crisper of the fridge getting decidedly uncrisp. Well for those sometimes this is the perfect dish. It is quick and easy, goes well both a quick supper or a more formal dinner, and uses an oft ignored veg.
Basically it is just quick cooked celery with a gussied up white sauce. Simple and delicious.
Basic White Sauce
- 1 1/2 oz. butter
- 4 T. flour
- 3 c. milk
- white pepper
- Melt butter over low heat, add the flour, cook 2 minutes stirring constantly, then gradually pour in the milk, stirring constantly until fully blended
- Add salt and white pepper to taste, simmer very gently for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally until you have a smooth sauce. Check seasoning and adjust to your liking.
Celery With Cheese Sauce
- 3 celery hearts (about 1 to 1 1/2 lb.)
- 3 c. Basic White Sauce
- 1 c. grated cheddar
- 1/2 t. freshly grated nutmeg
- Clean the celery hearts and chop into 1 1/2 inch pieces. cook in salted boiling water for about 15 minutes until they are tender, but not mushy
- Make a basic white sauce and during the last few minutes of cooking stir in the cheddar cheese and grated nutmeg. Stir to incorporate fully.
- Drain the celery and mix with the sauce (bits of cooked ham can be mixed in as well if you want a more substantial dish)