w/ creamy cheddar cheese sauce:
I have to confess: I play too much Harvest Moon. I'm addicted to the instant gratification of growing vegetables in my back yard, and then selling them via a crate outside my house while I sleep. Remember the Chive Baked Eggs post? Well, that was the just the beginning. *Sigh* Since then, I have been drooling over the new HM game that came out around Thanksgiving: "Harvest Moon Animal Parade". And fortunately for me, I was gifted a brand new copy of it for Christmas! But, looking back on the busy season, stomach flu, graduate applications and work schedules I haven't really had a chance to get very far in the game - it is decidedly more difficult than the last version. My only recipes so far: herbal tea, raspberry/blueberry marmalade and boiled egg. It's that hard.
Getting a second job (in real life), although very part time in nature, hasn't helped my gaming either. But, I do get a genuine sense of fulfillment when I'm pawing through stacks of checks, and clicking away in financial software that I could trust with my first born child. Do I feel so fulfilled growing turnips and fishing off an eternally placid coast, or wandering around in an enchanted forest blowing a magical whistle and making friends with squirrels and kittens and pandas that I will use a massively outrageous run on to describe my feelings?! Yes. Oh, do I ever. The fact is, I am equally fulfilled by both activities. The catch: only one pays me more than "200G" an hour.
If we were honest with each other, I would admit that I haven't done much cooking (in the game or in real life), and you would confess that you probably don't much care about my video game tendencies so long as I get a recipe posted. The truth is: deep down, we are both looking forward to enjoying a soft, savory baked potato wrapped in cheese sauce. Well, at least you are; I already enjoyed said cheese sauce around 9:55am. Disclaimer: it was delicious - there may have even been a tortilla chip or two involved.
Did I mention I am feeling especially herbivorous this month? Perhaps you noticed. I think, considering the recent rash of Holiday gorging, vegetables are a good thing. But, as always, if you feel the need for meat you're welcome to sprinkle on whatever you'd like: cooked ground beef, spicy pulled chicken or whatever else you like on your spuds. The truth of the matter is: you can put everything and the kitchen sink on a baked potato and still want more. Want more what you ask? The answer is simple: cheese sauce.
Notes: This sauce is a great, easy alternative to less than appetizing alternative cheeses: canned, jarred and plastic wrapped. The key to a good cheese sauce is, not surprisingly, the quality of the cheese. Fortunately, your local grocer will probably have a good selection of hard cheeses. A $5-6 wedge isn't that expensive when you consider just how inexpensive the remaining ingredients for the sauce are: butter, flour, milk. I like a good solid sharp cheddar (and not usually a white cheddar for this sort of thing), but I added the two slices of American cheese because, I think, it makes the sauce that much creamier. Plus, melting cheese in bubbling, thickened bechamel sauce (essentially what you just made) is extraordinarily rewarding; making it is easy to get carried away.
Makes enough for 4 potatoes, or about 1 - 1 1/4 cups sauce
4 baking potatoes, washed
1/2 head fresh broccoli
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk, whole is best
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 slices American cheese
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
1. Wash the potatoes, scrubbing thoroughly. Poke holes in the potatoes using a fork, then wrap them in waxed paper and microwave them using your "potato" setting.
2. Remove the woody stems from the broccoli and set the florets in a pot with an inch or so of water. Place the lid on top and set aside.
3. In another small pot, melt the butter over low heat - if the heat is too high the butter will burn. Add the flour, and then stir until the mixture is smooth and bubbly (3-4 minutes).
4. Heat the milk in the microwave until it is hot, about a minute to a minute and a half. When it's hot, add the milk to the butter mixture slowly, constantly stirring.
5. Cook the milk mixture until it is thick, stirring constantly, and begins to boil. Remove the sauce from the heat* and stir in the cheese. Season to taste.
6. Steam the broccoli, 3-4 minutes and then drain.
7. Split the potatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Top the potatoes with the broccoli and a generous spoonful of the cheese sauce. Serve warm, and refrigerate any leftover sauce**
*If your sauce got lumpy, just run it through a fine sieve and return to the pot.
**Stir the sauce generously when it reheats to remove lumps. If necessary, you can add a tablespoon or two of extra milk to thin the sauce slightly.