Did you know Martha Stewart puts beer in her nacho cheese sauce? I didn’t know she partied like that. Even my mom likes Martha Stewart. I just remembered her mostly for being a felon on house arrest, and less for her recipes and general domestication guidelines. Perhaps its because her conviction and sentencing happened in 2004, at the beginning of my feral late teens. I didn’t think about cooking much in 2004. I thought about banging twenty-somethings and sleeping through high school and my idealism reigned superior to others’ views on the world. Everything was an injustice. Martha Stewart was just somewhere in the line of Big Names Who Do Stupid Shit, But Not as Stupid as George Bush, who was elected that year for the second time. I was sixteen.
So when I googled “nacho cheese sauce recipe,” and Martha Stewart popped up as one of the top ten results, I took the bait. Wasn’t she also famous for cooking or doilies or something? I’d also seen a lost-to-memory article of about a million and five ways to use cauliflower in every day dishes that a friend had sent me this morning, and an idea was born.
I roasted the cauliflower while I prepared the rest at 400F on a cookie sheet, about 5-10 minutes and flipping over for another 5-10 minutes. I assembled as I went: blue corn chips on the plate. When the cauliflower was done, I just added that to the stack.
The cheese sauce recipe I modified quite a bit, since I wasn’t feeding a house full of ten people and this was a main dish for one person. I added about a tablespoon of olive oil to the saucepan, and heated it to medium. I added the teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of chili powder, and a half-teaspoon of cayenne as the directions called for, but left out the jalapenos and onions (those will come later). Then, I added about a third of the only gluten-free beer I had on hand — a Pilsner, not a Lager, but who cares? I saved the rest of the beer for sipping on. I added about 3/4 of a carton of heavy whipping cream and then, later than the directions call for, added about three tablespoons of gluten-free flour and whisked it together.
It was fun to watch the carbonation leave the beer! I felt like I’d been let in on an adult cooking secret. I cooked those things together for about three minutes on medium high, just until the sauce thickened and I kept stirring. I brought the temperature down to medium-low, and added about two and a half cups of shredded cheddar cheese slowly. I didn’t want the whole mess to clump up and to have to start over, so I waited for each handful of cheese to melt and integrate before stirring in the next. I completely skipped adding in a second kind of cheese, or any tomatoes.
Finally, I poured the cheese over the cauliflower and chips, tossed on some pickled jalapenos and pickled onions, some leftover black beans, topped with a big dollop of sour cream and a pile of delicious cilantro, and voila! See? The whole thing took me maybe 15 minutes to make, which was great — I had to head out the door shortly after I inhaled this delicious meal.
This is definitely one of those meals I’ll end up repeating, over and over again. I love nachos, and my favorites always include the best cheese sauces and lots of guacamole or sour cream. At heart, I’m a three-year-old, and I just like dipping and condiments. I’d never considered throwing beer into the mix, and had no idea how to make a cheese sauce. Upon tasting the whole thing, I decided the recipe I’d altered could stand on its own for beer cheese soup — which I tucked away for a party about a week later.