Chicken breasts are not the most exciting of meats as a main course so today I decided to heat things up a bit with a jalapeno cheddar sauce. Cheese sauce (in general) is truly a bittersweet thing to make simply because it’s delicious when done correctly but, at the same time, it’s easy to mess up.
I can’t tell you how long it took for me to get it down. I went through quite a bit of trial and error before I was comfortable with the process. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you have to have patience. Cheese sauce requires constant attention. Unlike red sauce, you can’t walk away from it at any point, which also means that you have to plan out the meal in order for everything to be served on time. That was the other thing that took a while to get used to. In the past, there was always something I either over cooked or under cooked because I hadn’t timed the sauce correctly.
So there are my two pieces of advice: 1. Have patience and 2. Plan ahead.
Something else that I should mention before we get started is that my method for making cheese sauce is not conventional by any means. My stomach is a bit sensitive to milk so I had to adapt my version to cut back on the amount of dairy I used. I just wanted to say something before you all go about scratching your heads wondering what the heck it is that I’m doing. With that, let’s get started.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Vegetable stock
- Jalapenos (chopped)
- Your favorite cheddar cheese (mine being Cabot extra sharp cheddar from Vermont)
- Milk or cream
- Granulated garlic
- Chicken breasts
Start off by bringing the vegetable stock with the pepper and granulated garlic to a gentle boil.
Next, add the chopped jalapenos and reduce the stock by about half.
Note: It’s important to reduce the stock so that you’re not left with a watery mess after incorporating the milk and cheese.
Once it’s reduced, lower the temperature and add the milk.
Note: I use a 50/50 ratio stock/milk, but you can make the sauce with 100% milk or cream. If you do, just replace the stock with the milk or cream in the first step and ignore this step. BUT, you will want to bring up the temperature of the milk low and slow to reduce. Do not let it boil.
Slowly reduce the stock and milk mixture. This process requires constant stirring to avoid burning the milk.
Note: I keep the temperature between medium and low the whole way through. It won’t thicken as fast as straight milk or cream, but it will thicken eventually. This is where your patience will be tested.
When your sauce is about 3/4 of the way reduced, add the cheese.
Note: Start your chicken as soon as you add the cheese so that they finish at the same time. Don’t use any extra seasoning on the chicken because it will affect the flavor of the sauce.
After a few minutes, the sauce should be noticeably thicker.
Note: You don’t want to thicken the sauce too much. The easiest way to tell that it’s done is when the spoon starts to leave a trail on the bottom of the pan as you are stirring.
Turn off the heat but keep stirring while you finish up the chicken.
Serve and enjoy!
As you can see, I served the chicken with some rice and asparagus. I find that whenever I’m making a sauce, I like to make sure that the sides will also go well with the sauce. That way you don’t have to worry about everything being on one plate. In the end, I did make the mistake of putting a little salt on the asparagus so when I took bites with the two together, it was a bit salty.
Other than that, the sauce was delicious. The milk and cheese helped cut the heat of the jalapeno just enough without taking away any flavor. I considered it an all-around success.
Until next time, take care.