I like cheese, in fact I have seldom met a cheese I didn't like. I have been known to indulge in the stinkiest of soft cheeses, to sliver parmigiano and eat it, but I was raised on cheddar, american yellow cheddar. These days I tend toward white cheddars, most the yellow or orange ones are actually food coloring. I like them extra sharp and dry. There are some very good English and Irish ones. One of the things I make is a basic cheese sauce. This is something I learned the basics of from my grandmother who couldn't cook. Cabot Creamery in Vermont makes a mass market extraordinarily sharp white cheddar in the USA that is very good quality and affordable (I wish it was a little drier or more crumbly.) Over the years I have kind of perfected it, but the recipe is very flexible. Very imprecise. This is more a method than a chemistry formula. It is also really hard to mess up and have it go wrong, if you follow some basic technique.
Things you will need:
2-3 ounces butter
2 heaping soup spoons of flour
6 to 12 fluid ounces of milk
Shredded cheese, 4 to 8 ounces.
You start by making a basic roux, this is butter and flour (I use either all purpose or bread flour, whatever is in front). Put the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add the flour. As the butter melts whisk in the flour. You want the flour to cook in the butter (other fats can be used) for at least 2 or 3 minutes for a light roux, in Louisiana cooking, they will turn the heat down to low and cook for 15-20 minutes while it turns tan or light brown. For a cheese sauce, a light roux is fine. The cooking changes the flavor profile of the flour. Add the milk, and stir (I normally use a whisk) on and off over medium high heat for 2 to 5 minutes and this will thicken to a sauce that coats the back of a spoon. If it gets too thick, add more milk, if it is too thin, carefully sift in a little more flour whisking to incorporate. The sauce is thickened by the starch in the flour absorbing fat and liquids. Some recipes suggest equal weight of butter and flour, maybe start with that, but in time you will just know it when you see it.* At this point you have made a basic bechamel or white sauce. It can be used at this point - or it can be enhanced. I enhance it with cheese. Whisk in the shredded cheese, stirring over medium heat until the cheese melts and a smooth sauce is formed. I think cheddar is best for this, soft and semi-soft cheeses tend to get stringy.
So now that you have cheese sauce what do you do with it?
There is a basic dish of serving it over toast, browned under a broiler or grill. The French layer it with ham over bread and brown in under the grill.
It is a great sauce for a vegetable casserole, mix it with cauliflower, or sliced brussel sprouts and bake until crusty around the edges and brown on top.
You can mix this with cooked macaroni and bake for a delightful baked macaroni and cheese. This is not at all like the stuff out of a box, not at all like a creamy mac and cheese, this will become crusty around the edges, on the bottom and top (it is the way my grandmother made it.)
You can make scalloped potatoes with it.
I did a one dish meal recently. Wash, trim and slice potatoes into about 1/4 inch slices, thinly slice an onion. In a greased casserole dish, start with a single layer of sliced potatoes, the a scattering of onions, a layer of cheese sauce, then thin boneless pork chops (I butterflied them to about 1/2 inch thickness) topped with another layer of potatoes and onions. Top with a complete layer of cheese sauce, sprinkle a grated cheese on top, bake in a 400 degree oven for about an hour. Crusty around the edges and heavenly in the middle.
I wonder if that would work with chicken?
*US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart defined pornography by saying "you know it when you see it."