Sunday, February 18, 2018
Cooking

Choose a cheese, any cheese for modernist macaroni dish

Imagine your favorite cheese: perhaps an aged, sharp cheddar, or maybe a blue Gorgonzola or a gentle Monterey Jack. Wouldn't it be wonderful to use those really good cheeses you love on nachos or as a sauce on macaroni or steamed vegetables?

But if you have ever tried melting high-quality cheeses, you've experienced the problem: the cheese separates into a greasy oil slick that no amount of stirring will restore.

One traditional workaround is to a Mornay sauce, which combines the cheese with a cooked mixture of flour, butter and milk. But a Mornay sauce can taste as much of cooked flour as it does of cheese. The starch in the flour masks some cheese flavors, so the sauce loses vibrancy.

James L. Kraft discovered a much better solution around 1912. He found that adding a small amount of sodium phosphate to the cheese as it melted kept it from turning into a clumpy mess of cheese solids swimming in a pool of oil. Kraft made canned, shelf-stable cheese and the technique led to processed cheese products.

You can apply the same chemistry to achieve much higher culinary purposes. The chefs in our research kitchen have made mac and cheese with an intense goat Gouda and cheddar sauce, for example, and build gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches using cheese slices that melt like the processed stuff, but are made from feta or Stilton.

In place of sodium phosphate, we use sodium citrate, which like sodium phosphate is an emulsifying salt that helps tie together the immiscible components of cheese: oil and water.

In solid form, cheese is a stable emulsion. The tiny droplets of dairy fat are suspended in water and held in place by a net of interlinked proteins. When cheese melts, that net breaks apart, and the oil and water tend to go their separate ways. Sodium citrate can form attachments to fat and water molecules, so it holds everything together. The end result is a smooth, homogeneous sauce.

Comments
Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Nothing says indulgence like noshing on some seriously giant Alaskan king crab legs. Theyíre not just tasty, theyíre a low-fat source of protein: One leg has about 25 grams of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals (including sodium, incidentall...
Published: 02/15/18
Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

Youíve likely seen persimmon in the grocery store and then shied away from it, not quite sure what to do with it. The most common variety in the United States is the fuyu persimmon, also called Japanese persimmon, and it looks similar to a slightly f...
Published: 02/15/18
Global flavors: Celebrate the Olympics with creative nacho recipes

Global flavors: Celebrate the Olympics with creative nacho recipes

The global experience that is the Olympics has returned, and that gives us a fun opportunity to learn about different countries and parts of the world while watching the triple axels and halfpipes.Food is one way to bring far-off places a little clos...
Published: 02/14/18
Sheet-Pan Chicken With Sweet Potatoes and Peppers recipe

Sheet-Pan Chicken With Sweet Potatoes and Peppers recipe

For most of the year, I hold to the notion that what grows together goes together, especially when it comes to mingling things on a sheet pan.Springís tender greens and shoots; summerís juicy zucchini and tomatoes; fallís pumpkins and Brussels sprout...
Published: 02/14/18
Five ideas for quick and easy Valentineís Day desserts

Five ideas for quick and easy Valentineís Day desserts

Busy crafting a nice dinner for yourself and your boo this evening? Donít worry, weíve got dessert covered. Here are five ideas for after-meal sweets, little morsels that come together quickly so you can focus on the main event. Michelle Stark, Times...
Published: 02/14/18

From the food editor: Seared Steaks With Peppers and Almonds are elegant and simple

If you buy good ingredients, half the work is already done. That may sound a little hokey, but itís true and itís the cooking advice I need to heed more often in my own kitchen.My husband and I are dining out on Valentineís Day this year, something w...
Published: 02/13/18
Taste test: red velvet cake mixes

Taste test: red velvet cake mixes

Sorry, restaurateurs, but Valentineís Day can be one of the worst evenings to eat out ó especially if you like great food, prompt service and intimate dining. Restaurants can be crowded and loud, and the staff can be stressed and rushed. So if itís n...
Published: 02/13/18
Recipe for sweet and sour cauliflower thatís not too sweet

Recipe for sweet and sour cauliflower thatís not too sweet

Washington PostHereís the truth about sweet and sour dishes: One cookís sweet is another cookís sour. That is, the balance between the two is highly subjective. Take lemonade, the most beloved sweet and sour beverage that comes to mind. I prefer it o...
Published: 02/08/18
Stories of food and romance from our readers

Stories of food and romance from our readers

We asked our readers to share a romantic food story or an especially memorable meal with their loved one. Here are some of our favorite submissions. Camping meal with flairA year before we married, Bob and I went on a camping trip to Key West, testin...
Published: 02/07/18
Engagement Chicken may not lead to lasting love, but it does dress to impress

Engagement Chicken may not lead to lasting love, but it does dress to impress

Frankly, the very idea behind Engagement Chicken makes me a little twitchy. It is essentially this: Make this chicken for your boyfriend and he will propose because you have proven you are a true woman now that you know your way around a roasted bird...
Published: 02/07/18