Pimento Cheese - How I learned to stop worrying and love the pimento
I hadn’t intended on this blog being a running disclosure of my private moments (Happy Oatmeal Cookie Dance) or long held irrational fears of food but it’s turning out that way. I’m guessing that I’ll be cash flow positive with the offset in professional therapy spending.
Pimento Cheese. You’ll note that it contains the word ‘Pimento’. While I pride myself on culinary diversity, there are certain associations that color my willingness to ingest specific foods. Follow me on this one
- My older brother (when I was 6 or 7) says let’s play “guess this food”
- I proceed to nail the first dozen guesses, exhibiting my honed palette at an early age
- The next guess turns into ‘shove spanish olive into mouth’
Spanish olives with that (now) awesome briny taste have this bright red pimento staring right at you. Associations with eyeballs and other such passed freely through my childhood imagination. The horror of having such thrust into my mouth (and hitting enough olafactory sensation to warn) colored my acceptance of pimentos and spanish olives until my early 20’s.
I’m here to say that I’ve emerged relatively unscarred from this experience and resolved to introduce my kids to olives of all shapes, sizes and flavors at an early age.
With the spanish olive aversion behind me the next challenge was pimento cheese. I love cheese, I accept pimentos so what’s the rub? I (unjustly) viewed pimento cheese spread with some trepidation - it may well have been lingering memories of the spanish olive incident or the visual cues that it was overly orange. IDK.
Fast forward to a few experiences with pimento cheese made with grated cheese and not mashed beyond recognition - where the flavor of the cheese(es) and the pimento shone through, the bite of a spicy pimento cheese with a light but lingering heat in the back of the throat, the melted creaminess that is a pimento cheese topped burger. These are the experiences of homemade pimento cheese. A broad palette to showcase a sharp cheddar, roasted peppers, sweet onion and hot sauce.
A few notes are appropriate here on this recipe. Most pimento cheeses are prepared with an abundance of mayonaise and pureed into a (largely) creamy finished product. If that’s your preference, go for it - add an additional 1/4 cup of mayo and finish in a food processor or with a stick blender. I prefer the treatment below - light on they mayo and hand mixed. Each piece of shredded cheese remains distinct with just enough mayo to bind the whole lot together. The finely diced onion and chopped pimentos (or roasted red peppers) flavor the prepared dish but expose you to a much more texturally interesting dish (IMO) than the pureed version.
If you’re a fan of pimento cheese I would encourage you to try this preparation - I’m not going back.
*Olive Pix via Wikipedia GreenOlives largejar” by Whitebox at English Wikipedia - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
- 1/2 cup mayonaise (duke’s preferred)
- 1/4 cup sweet onion (finely diced)
- 1/2 tsp tabasco (or try a chipotle hot sauce like Chalupa for a smokier variant)
- 8 oz white cheddar (shredded)
- 8 oz yellow cheddar (shredded)
- 1/2 cup pimentos or roasted red pepper (finely chopped)
- cracked pepper (to taste)
- Shred cheese using large holes on box grater (or food processor if you’re in for the cleanup)
- Add mayo, onion and hot sauce to large bowl
- Mix well
- Add cheese to bowl and mix well with large spoon or freshly washed hands
- Chill for at least 1 hour before serving
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