A love affair with Pimento Cheese begins, ends, and begins again at will in my house. Sometimes it’s months or a year or two in between dalliances. And then it’s over and over and over again plain old, plain old just like it always tastily was or sometimes it arrives in new captivating disguises like CHICKEN-PIMENTO CHEESE PATTY MELTS with Grilled Broccoli with Sriracha Sour Cream from the summer of 2017 here on More Time at the Table.
Pimento Cheese is one of my go-tos for taking to a potluck or a party because it disappears like Moody’s Goose–especially if there are Triscuit Rye crackers–my very favorite cracker in the world. I include them if I have them, but also balance the ramped up cheese with a mess of fresh vegetables, also snappily known as crudités in food parlance. Really, Pimento Cheese gives new meaning to the time-worn phrase, “I’ll bring a veggie platter.”
assorted raw vegetables served as an hors d’oeuvre, typically with a sauce into which they may be dipped.”~DICTIONARY
To keep things simple, I’ve for quite a while used the Lee Brother’s Pimento Cheese Recipe printed in the New York Times on a day I can’t discover, despite looking it up twice. Read up on well-known sibling food writers Ted Lee and Matt Lee here. While my parents were both southerners, they died without leaving me a Pimento Cheese recipe, more’s the pity. I have a favorite food memory of my mom cooking for wedding or baby showers filling a large loaf of bakery bread with tuna salad, chicken or shrimp salad, and, of course Pimento Cheese. That bread meant a trip to the bakery in town as it needed to be sliced horizontally to accommodate the fillings. (I loved going to the bakery!) The loaf was frosted with softened cream cheese, decorated with sliced green olives on top, and then chilled overnight in the fridge. Off to the party it went the next day, where everyone was served a single skinny slice as they went through the buffet line. My mom’s never looked like this, but it tasted divinely.
You’ll notice how thin most of the women were in those 50’s shower photos. That was because the hostess was stingy with the party loaf slices. Just my opinion.
When the Pimento Cheese bug hit me this year, I’d been muddling around, thinking about mixing it up a little. Every once in a while, I’d dream about a new way for this old school happiness. In fact, I was convinced I needed to meld my Southern roots with my current Southwestern ties by throwing a few green chiles into the mixer. While Pimento Cheese can pack a little heat (depending on how much crushed red pepper, cayenne, or Tabasco you add), it’s generally on the grandma-mild side and perfect for ladies’ luncheons–if such things still exist. By replacing half of the sweet pimentos with diced Hatch green chiles (I like the mild ones), the heat index would be raised, and the spread would graduate to appetizer level for neighborhood get-togethers. I would still need to be careful with my pepper additions as you never know who in a group will come up with, “My God, that’s hot!” despite all best intentions. Still, I only had to whip it once to be convinced: this is my new go-to. And it might be yours, too. It could be any meal at all and why not? Fix it up on toast at breakfast, with crispy-dipsy veggies for starters, on soft, squishy white bread at lunch, stuffed into tiny tomatoes or gracing a patty melt, spooned into an omelet, spread in the middle of buttery biscuits, or lopped onto crackers and served up with an ice cold Colorado craft beer. (My favorite is Bristol Laughing Lab.) And, oh…one of the best things about my new spread: there’s no cooking if it’s hot where you are. Just try it, do.
green chile pimento cheese
- 1 pound extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated by hand or in a food processor using the coarse grating disc. (No pre-grated cheese allowed—you need better quality cheese that comes in a loaf, and also has much more moisture and taste)—about 4 cups. I like Tillamook cheese, but sometimes use Irish cheddar.
- ½ cup (4 ounces) softened plain fresh goat cheese or cream cheese
- ½ cup jarred pimentos, finely diced – drain well and press out excess moisture with a towel
- 4- ounce can (or ½ cup) mild, diced Hatch chiles – drain well and press out excess moisture with a towel
- 6 tablespoons Hellman’s mayonnaise
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper – or to taste
- Add all ingredients into the bowl of a standing electric mixer and turn mixer on to medium speed for a minute or two until well mixed, smooth, and spreadable. Taste and adjust seasonings. If you’ve a strong arm, this is also accomplished in nearly the same time by hand. Not using immediately? Cover tightly and store in refrigerator for up to a week.
Such sad losses in the food world….
FOODIE READING I’VE RECENTLY ADMIRED:
We had our youngest, Emily Suzanne, home for Father’s Day last Sunday. Here she is with our lap dog, Tucker.
Happy summery cooking,