Monday, November 26, 2012

This is not your mama's pimento cheese.

Last Sunday while filling my paper plate to its maximum capacity at a church covered dish supper I was trying to figure out how to load my plate with veg-all casserole, fried chicken, and cheesy potatoes without anything touching. I was also thinking about Southern food. In the South there are certain recipes that vary greatly from household to household. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation and often cause disputes among families that go like this: Mom: "I want to make my mom's potato salad" Dad: "No I'm making My mom's potato salad. I don't like your mom's" When I think about dishes like this three things instantly come to mind, chicken salad, deviled eggs, and pimento cheese.
I know chicken salad isn't really a strictly southern thing but in the south chicken salad is a big deal. It is served at every funeral, wedding, birthday party, and shower. When it comes to chicken salad for me there are a lot of factors going on. Is the chicken shredded, chopped, or cubed? Is the dressing sweet, mustard based, or simple with just a little mayo? Whats in it? celery? pickles? herbs? There are a lot of variations. For me its all about finely shredded sweet chicken salad with finely diced celery and pickles.
As far as deviled eggs go they may seem pretty self explanatory. You know egg yolk, mayo, pickles, and mustard. However the amount of mustard and pickles changes everything. Also there are huge texture differences in some peoples deviled eggs. Some people like the filling wet, others like it stiff like frosting.  Personally I will eat any deviled egg that is set in front of me, unless it has dijon mustard in it. Blech!
Finally pimento cheese. Again, this seems self explanatory grated cheddar, pimentos, and mayo. However after sampling a fair amount of pimento cheese I've noticed a lot of differences. Some people use very thick  pre shredded cheese and it makes for something more like a salad. Some people just add mayo. I do it really differently. I grew up eating my grandmothers pimento cheese and basically wen't in the opposite direction. I like mine spicy, with finely grated extra sharp cheddar, a scant amount of mayo, and a spreadable texture. This is my pimento cheese.

Pimento cheese with a kick

14 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup of Dukes mayo (yes it has to be Dukes)
1 4oz jar of pimentos
2 clove of garlic finely minced
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Shred the cheese in your food processor using the proper attachment, if you don't own a food processor with the proper attachment take a brief moment to cry and brace for yourself for a grueling workout on the box grater.
Transfer the shredded cheese to a bowl and fold in the mayo with a rubber spatula, followed by the pimentos. Finally fold in the pepper and garlic. By folding each ingredient separately it gives the pimento cheese the right texture.
Allow the mixture to chill in the fridge for at lest 30 minutes.
Spread on ritz crackers, make teach sandwiches like my grandmother did, or my personal favorite spread on bread and grill on a panini grill.

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