Tuesday, November 10, 2009

the pâté of the south...

Of course, I'm speaking of none other than the staple of any Southern lunch repertoire: Pimento Cheese. (Note: it's "Pimento Cheese" not "Pimento AND Cheese.")

It's such a simple dish. But like with any other basic recipe, there's room for improvement, room to fail, and always a few that stand out. In the case of Pimento Cheese, some brands are stand alone favorites and "Aunt So and So" or "Pappy" can be worshipped as gods when they create a signature secret recipe.

For those of you, such as my former roommate, who don't know what pimento cheese is. Here's one definition. In its simplest form, the spread includes: grated cheese, mayonnaise, and diced pimentos. See, there's a whole lot of room to modify this one!

I set out to create a signature recipe.

I love the flavors of plain and simple pimento cheese, but also like a bit of zing. Something that makes the dish a bit different from the others. Where to begin?

Cheese. I'm a purist. Pimento cheese is supposed to have sharp yellow cheddar. I definitely prefer white cheddar on a daily basis, but this is one dish that should always be made with yellow cheddar. I don't think I should have to explain why I prefer FRESHLY grated cheese. But, for those of you who might not understand, here's the explanation: fresh grated cheese has more moisture than its pre-grated counterpart. Plus, it tastes a lot less like the plastic packaging it comes in. It simply tastes fresher. AND, it's cheaper. So, roll up your sleeves and start grating.

Mayonnaise. I know it would be better for me to use homemade mayonnaise. But, most people don't have the spare time to master the art of egg and oil emulsions. My favorite mayonnaise brand is Duke's. Anyone care to disagree? Cause, you'll lose. It's simply the best. PS- Dearest Mayonnaise Hating Friends (Mindy, that's you) I have seen a recipe for this using cream cheese. I have no idea why you'd what to do this... but I also have no idea why you hate mayonnaise.

Pimentos. I don't think I've ever seen any other brand of these than "Dromedary Pimentos." I feel like this is a traditional thing. As with most things, I would prefer to use a fresh pepper, but the flavor and texture of the pimento end of the pimento cheese equation is derived from these canned jewels. The Lee Brothers (Southern cookbook authors, who specialize in fresh ingredients in Southern cuisine) like to roast a red pepper for their recipe. But honestly, I like to stick with the traditional, no matter how canned it is. Plus, I have grown up recycling those little jars for everything! I don't think my mom ever threw away a pimento jar, they're the perfect size to store tiny items.

Name. Since most of the immortalized recipes include the name of some beloved family member, I think mine needs that sort of name.... Hmm, most of the kids I babysit call me "Miss Caitlyn." Brandon's nephew calls me "Aunt C.C." what do you think guys?

I haven't shared a recipe with you in a while, so I think now's as good a time as any.

Miss Caitlyn's (or Aunt C.C.'s) Pimento Cheese
1 1/4 Cups of freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 Cup Duke's Mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons diced pimentos
2 Tablespoons very finely minced white onion
1 Tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 Teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/4 Teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (a smidge more if using pre-ground)
1/4 Teaspoon granulated sugar
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Mix ingredients together. Serve on bread, crackers, or on an old leather shoe. I promise this stuff would improve its flavor.



Claire said...

is this a dirty trick like the cookie "recipe"??? I think that's the name, "Dirty Trick Pimento Cheese"
love you!

Mindy said...

I'm going to try this with the cream cheese and get back to you!

Anonymous said...

what was the dirty trick? i LOVE pimento AND cheese...trying this stat!

Rachel said...

so excited to try this! I LOVE pimento cheese, and homemade beats the store-bought any day. Thanks!

Meribeth said...

I'm diggin' the new name....may have to refer to you as Aunt C.C. in our house from now on. ;-)
I have toyed with the idea of having our friends over and making all sorts of southern goodies. I think this will go well with some fried chicken and Elizabeth's $50 mac & cheese....and sweet tea, of course.
Miss you!! Love you!!

Lee said...

Actually, I thought it was pimiento cheese. . .with an "i." But maybe it is one of those either/or situations.
I love this stuff. I have found my favorite pimiento cheese to be from Lucchesi's and Newk's. I've been wanting to make some myself. Sooo glad you posted this!

Jennifer said...

I would have to read your blog on the first day of the Nativity Fast. I love homemade pimento cheese! Your recipe sounds delicious!