The only thing better than french fries is cheese fries, but it’s not necessarily as simple as it seems; there are definitely some things to keep in mind. Cheese, while certainly an enhancer, is not a foolproof ingredient. There are pitfalls you may stumble into, and we’re here to get you out. Let’s break it down.
Basic cheese fries
When I say basic cheese fries, I’m talking about putting grated cheese on fries and melting it in the oven or under the broiler. Totally basic, but there are still some things to consider. If you’re putting cheese on fresh-made fries, use your broiler; it’ll get hot enough to melt the cheese before the fries burn or get too crispy. If you’re reheating leftover fries, use your oven at 375°F. Pop the cheeseless fries in there for about 15 minutes, then add the cheese and put it all back in until the cheese is melted to where you want it (you’ll throw some chopped scallions on there, too, if you know what’s up).
How can you screw that up, right? Well, you can. If you use the wrong cheese, you’ll get an oily fry-cheese brick. For the fries you see above, I used medium cheddar. “But Paul,” you say, “I like sharp cheddar. It’s clearly the better cheese.” On one level you are right; sharp cheddar has a superior flavor. Unfortunately, it’s really bad at melting and really good at rehardening. You see that melty cheese? You’ll never get that with sharp cheddar — you’ll just get the aforementioned fry-cheese brick. If you try to pick one out, the rest will come hulking along with it. Anything that doesn’t melt well is something to be avoided here, and regardless, you’ll have to eat these quickly, as once the cheese cools down, forks start to become necessary to break things up.
Fries with cheese sauce
Make no mistake: We’re talking about nacho cheese sauce here. Ladle it over fries or dip them in it. It’s up to you. The great thing about this application is you can start making cheese combos that don’t work quite as well when you’re just throwing grated cheese on fries. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about the cheese cooling and changing your cheese fries into the dreaded aforementioned brick.
Some might feel that nacho cheese sauce is fake cheese, so we’re going to make some with real cheese to ensure we know what’s in our nacho cheese sauce. American cheese is a must, as it gives it that great saucy, velvety texture, and we’re going to add that same medium cheddar for flavor, then finish it off with pepper jack to round out the flavors and make it nacho cheese sauce (instead of just cheese sauce).
These are a bit more work than basic cheese fries, but the flavors you get in that cheese sauce are definitely worth the extra effort. Just be careful: If you pour the sauce over the fries and let them sit too long, they will soak up the cheese and get soggy.
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 pound American cheese, cubed
- 1/4 pound pepper jack cheese, grated
- 1/4 pound medium cheddar, grated
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1/2 teaspoon water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Melt butter on low.
- Add milk. Add cheese slowly, while stirring.
- Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.
- Add salt and cornstarch mix.
- Simmer another 10 minutes, stirring often.
- Serve on top of fries, next to fries, next to chips, with crudité, in a bowl with a spoon…
Can you think of anything else? I bet you can. Last year I decided to make my own cheese powder for spicy cheese fries, and that turned out great. Cheese fries are a great thing to play around with, because you’re playing with cheese and fries. So even if you make a mistake here, the end results are still going to be pretty delicious. And don’t just limit it to cheese — throw anything you want on there. Do some brie and figs, or make some carne asada nacho fries; the possibilities are endless.