Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Garlicky Pimento Cheese

Failure really does breed success, especially in cooking. This recipe is the perfect example.

Pimento cheese (P.C.) is a culinary staple here in the South. I recently viewed a short video for a pimento cheese recipe via Saveur and thought I'd give it a try. It was okay. But since it's not something I grew up with, I really didn't have a "past experience" to compare it. I almost threw it out. But ingredients these days are dearly priced.

I put it in the fridge and went to bed thinking about it. (Yes, food bloggers are always thinking of food, ingredients and recipes.) The next day I tweaked it some. Then some more. Then some more. Finally, I realized I was in a no-man's zone and had no idea what I was looking for or tasting. And I was stuck on that bloody ingredient "pimento." I was tempted to add even more, but why??? Finally, I returned to the roots of my tastebuds: more garlic. But that didn't seem to work either. Disgusted, I covered it and thrust it back in the fridge.

The next day I thought I'd have one last taste before it hit the garbage. WOW! Time was all it needed. One night in the fridge and all the ingredients got their act together and put on one taste show. Is it a standard, southern pimento cheese spread? Probably not. Purists would guffaw at the addition of cream cheese. But it's good. Hot-damn good. And that's all that matters for this Yankee.

I LOVE the little jars!

  • 15 ounces sharp white cheddar, divided
  • 3, 4-oz. jars diced pimentos, drained (save some of the brine)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 habanero pepper, seeded*
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1, 8-oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce and/or to taste
  • 2 medium gloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce, but no more than 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Using the large holes of a box grater, grate 10 ounces of cheese and add to a bowl. Grate remaining five ounces and set aside.

Using gloves, remove seeds and rib from 1/2 habanero pepper. Dice as finely as possible.  Add to a small bowl. Add drained, diced pimentos to bowl and mix. Using a micro-plane or the smallest holes on a box grater, grate the garlic and add to pepper mixture. Stir. Mix in the mayonnaise and then add to grated cheese and mix through. If needed, add a bit of the pimento brine, but no more than one tablespoon.

Place softened cream cheese in a mini food processor and pulse until smooth. Remove and add to cheese and pepper mixture. Add Tabasco and Worcestershire. Mix. Salt to taste. Return about 3/4 of mixture to processor and pulse on and off several times to mix well. Return to bowl and add remaining five ounces of grated cheese.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one day. Taste and re-adjust seasonings as needed.

Notes: This spread is not over-powering in its heat. If you like it insanely hot, add more peppers or hot sauce. Also, purchase name-brand pimentos. Some of the generic brands lack taste.

*Each pepper differs in heat. Be careful of hot peppers and use plastic gloves when dealing with them. Be sure to rinse cutting surfaces that come into contact with them. Avoid touching your face, especially eyes, when dealing with any hot pepper.