Before Uruguayan-born chef Ignacio Mattos had New York hot spots of his own, he was putting in long, late hours learning the trade from others. And at the end of those shifts prepping high-end eats, he often found himself getting late-night grub at 7-Eleven. Typically, that meant taquitos slathered in “cheese” sauce. “The Cheez Whiz kind of saved me,” he says.
Whatever it did, the appeal of that oozing, warm richness stayed with him, eventually serving as the inspiration for the more upscale, less fluorescent-orange taleggio cheese sauce featured in his cookbook “Estela,” named for one of his restaurants.
His decadent creation upgrades the gooey, yet satisfying convenience store condiment with the savory complexity of a washed-rind cheese. His recipe is simple: Pour hot cream over cubes of taleggio, cover the bowl to trap the heat and melt the cheese, then blitz with a blender until smooth.
Mattos serves the sauce on seared steaks brushed with savory-salty fish sauce, the creamy taleggio beautifully amplifying the richness of the meat. But in fact, this cheese sauce can transform pretty much anything, from Brussels sprouts to boiled potatoes.
At Milk Street, we stuck with Mattos’ idea of pairing the sauce with beef, but instead of steak we felt it was a natural for a cheeseburger. We inverted his method, adding the cheese to heated cream and letting it melt together in the saucepan, off heat. We also skipped the blender: Simply passing the mixture through a mesh strainer gave us the perfect texture.
With a sauce this rich, we were able to keep the burgers basic. The only exception: basting them with Worcestershire sauce, which added sweet and savory notes that balanced the cheese—a far better result than a midnight run to 7-Eleven.