Like most people, my understanding of food and the care it takes to lovingly prepare it came from my Mother. I don’t think there is another two-word phrase that prompts faster action on her part than when one of her children or grandchildren utter the words, “I’m hungry.”
I’ve been cooking since I could crawl. Mom would tell me what she was making and I, still not tall enough to reach the kitchen counter, would reach into the lower cabinets to hand her the appropriate pot or pan for the dish.
Fast forward three or so decades and I’m proud to say that I worked in my college’s catering department. That job reinforced the truth that few professions know people who are harder working or are more generous than those who grow or prepare food. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the greatest chefs and food producers in the world and eating around the globe. However, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the food prepared on family tables or the recipes given to me by family and dear friends.
My goal in this blog is to invite you to join in my exploration of food and the world surrounding it one dish at a time. As the pace of our world grows ever quicker, I want to ensure that we take time and that you have a resource to explore food. If anything, I hope it allows you to share some new dishes with your family and friends. I am convinced there is no greater gift we can give to one another than a lovingly prepared dish of this or that.
It is in that spirit of generosity that I invite you to share in my first offering. Though pimento cheese is by no means complicated, just ask the good folks at the Augusta National Golf Club if pimento cheese matters. While discussion of Tiger Woods’ penalty may have dominated this year’s Masters on the fairways, much of the gallery talked about the “new” pimento cheese recipe (ESPN gave a full account of the sandwich “scandal” here).
For me, there is no dip or spread that is more quintessentially southern than pimento cheese. Like my Mother, I make it for any gathering of friends. It is wonderful as a dip for crackers or vegetables at a wedding or housewarming party. It also makes a fantastic sandwich spread on its own on fresh bread or as a topping for a backyard burger.
Preparation takes only minutes. In a stainless steel bowl (which helps chill the end product thoroughly), begin with four cups of shredded cheese. I use two cups of sharp cheddar and two cups of a mild cheddar and Monterey Jack blend to arrive at the total of four cups. Add to the cheese 6 ounces of well-drained, diced pimentos. For seasoning add 1/8 teaspoon (about 3 good dashes) of each cayenne pepper and granulated garlic. Also add a dash of salt and ground black pepper. Resist the urge to over salt as both the cheese and pimentos are salty on their own. Mix these ingredients.
Finish the pimento cheese by adding a half cup of good quality mayonnaise and mixing thoroughly. The final product will take on a creamy texture. Cover with plastic wrap and then place in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours to let the flavors meld. If possible, refrigerate overnight before enjoying for the best flavor. If you do not use the entire batch immediately, store any remaining pimento cheese in an airtight plastic container. I’m told it will keep in the refrigerator for three days, though it has never lasted that long in mine.
For a completely different, but equally tasty take on this southern staple, I recommend visiting Rosebud Restaurant in the Morningside neighborhood of Atlanta for brunch. Owner and chef Ron Eyester uses his foamy, creamy pimento cheese as a key ingredient in his homefry casserole – a delicious, indulgent treat.
Your feedback is always welcome, so let me know if you enjoy the recipe or if you have a favorite pimento cheese recipe of your own.