Pass the Pimento Cheese Please!
Pimento Cheese has been a staple of Southern picnics and porch lunches since the 1900’s but was relatively unknown to this California girl until a few years ago. Of course I’d heard of the stuff--some strange concoction of shredded cheese glued together by mayonnaise and accented with the red things from the insides of olives. But for someone who hates mayonnaise, it was a no-fly zone for me until it started popping up on menus everywhere! I found it spread on toast and topped with microgreens and radishes (thanks Parson's) and folded into Mac & Cheese (I’m looking at you Honey Butter Fried Chicken)! Suddenly, I was addicted to this questionable cheese product and started whipping it up at home. With just a few staples you probably have languishing in your fridge and a quick trip to the store for the titular pimentos, you too can indulge in a classic taste of the South.
This recipe is a general guideline. Feel free to add in whatever extras you’d like--garlic, herbs, different cheeses, etc.
8 oz softened cream cheese
2 cups extra sharp cheddar, shredded ( I prefer using block cheese and shredding myself for a chunkier texture. This time, I used a bunch of Taco Seasoned Cheese Curds that my husband brought back from a trip to Wisconsin. For the cheese curds, I just stuffed them in the food processor fitted with a large grater blade to shred).
1 tbs mayonnaise (most recipes call for ½ a cup but I still haven’t gotten over my mayonnaise-a-phobia, so a tablespoon is plenty to give the cheese a smooth, rich texture)
1 tbs Dijon Mustard
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 8 oz jar pimentos, rough chopped, diced or minced depending on your preferred texture (I like a rough chop)
A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
If you’d like more spice, add some minced hot pepper. I tried out a Caribbean Red Habanero from my garden. SPICY!
I love to serve Pimento Cheese with a Ritz Crackers. The salty sweetness of the Ritz pairs so perfectly with the creamy, sharp cheese that I dare you to resist this addictive combination!
For a more sophisticated spin on an old time treat, bake up some Gougeres (I always keep a stash of these French cheese puffs in my freezer), poke a little hole in the bottom and pipe to bursting with some of that delicious Pimento Cheese.
Good luck getting these to the table...they seem to disappear before they even make it out of the kitchen!