FRIDAY FISH: Shrimp-Green Chile Pimento Cheese

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This year, when I began to dream about FRIDAY FISH recipes for Lent, I realized that while I hadn’t run out of fish and seafood ideas after fourteen years of food blogging, I did need to do a little planning to make sure I didn’t get seven special company meals or even five fish sandwiches and two seafood chowders. So I jotted down a few ideas (click on the photo at left), wondering if it made sense to go with one soup, one appetizer, one sandwich, and so on. To even things out a bit. I could have made a list of salmon, crab, canned tuna, cod, tilapia, flounder…and that would have been fine, too. But so far, my little dreaming note has worked, though there are only 5 dishes listed to date. Ok, then. I’ll still be thinking.

Ash Wednesday and Lent 2023: WHY DO PEOPLE FAST?/VOX

The thought of stirring a slew of chopped shrimp into my green chile-pimento cheese was born because there was a bag of frozen cooked shrimp in my garage freezer that needed using. I couldn’t imagine shrimpy pimento cheese could be anything but luscious — also versatile — and at the very first turn, I knew I’d struck gold. Shrimp Green Chile-Pimento Cheese is an easy (if not simple) appetizer or sandwich spread or omelet filling that makes a generous quart so you can freeze a pint for the next time friends come to dinner or when you need something to take in the car cooler to have with crackers and a cold beer in the hotel room. My seasoning leaves you with a brief smiley buzz in the mouth but you can ramp that up by doubling the crushed red pepper or adding Tabasco. To decide on your heat level, think about how you’ll use this cheese. Bread will dumb down the heat if you’re making a sandwich but should you dip it up with celery sticks or cucumber rounds, you’ll witness lots more warmth. Your choice.

The food processor, should you have one, makes quick work of chopping the cooked shrimp.

I think of pimento cheese in terms of an appetizer, but growing up it appeared on special occasions as one element in a party loaf — you might have seen this elsewhere and I know I’ve mentioned it on the blog. A fresh loaf of bread is sliced twice or thrice horizontally and filled with a choice of fillings like pimento cheese, tuna salad, chicken salad, or ____. This appeared not for Wednesday night dinners, but only for wedding showers or 50th birthdays. You had to go to the bakery to get an unsliced loaf of bread and then make those fillings and frost that thing; it was a dish destined for your wedding gift silver platter. (Where is mine?)

photo courtesy Betty Crocker

In the south, pimento cheese is for daily sandwiches, especially during warm weather as there’s no cooking involved. Should you look up my favorite original pimento cheese recipe by the South Carolina Lee brothers, it says “makes four sandwiches.” In other words, pimento cheese is lunch food.

You Will Not Believe the History of Pimento Cheese/SOUTHERN LIVING (Includes some recipes that include pimento cheese like “Pimento Cheese Sausage Balls.”)

If you’re a longtime reader, you might remember my other forays into pimento cheese:


Hmph. Right next to the canned tomatoes and artichoke hearts, of course. Where else?
ARE PIMENTOS HARD TO FIND?! HOW DO YOU SPELL THAT? Occasionally, I can't find pimentos to make pimento cheese though every grocery store should have them in the pickle section, I'd think. Once in a while, they're hiding somewhere else. Why? Pimentos are diced and pickled from large, red, heart-shaped chili peppers (Capsicum annuum); they should be with other pickled things--yes?  This time it's just not by the pickled pickles. The larger problem for me is my own local grocery, King Sooper's, spells pimento like this:  pimiento.  So if I forget to type it into the online pickup tool the latter way, I don't find them.  I'm left wondering who really knows how to spell the word? The Lee Brothers use pimento, as does Eden Seed company and that's good on me--- but you decide for yourself since even SOUTHERN LIVING goes with adding the second "i." As long as I can make my cheese.   
photo courtesy Kroger

Whether you’re making pimento cheese for a friend’s party, for your kids’ lunches, to stuff in omelets, or to increase your own general level of happiness, I only hope you’ll spell the word correctly when you try this:

Shrimp Green Chile-Pimento Cheese

Making one’s own pimento cheese at home is an eye-opening experience if prior tasting memories came from a half-pint cloudy deli container at the grocery store. The smooth texture, the tangy fragrance, the fatty-salty mouth sensation are all a sort of revelation. As easy as this many-purposed spread is to make, it’s then just as easy to move ahead to new and advanced versions. A Coloradan, I several years ago went in with a small can of green chiles tossed into the mix. This time, half-pound of cooked shrimp snuck into the bowl along with a little garlic, Dijon, and lemon juice. Don’t overdo the garlic; it blossoms out after the cheese has been in the fridge. By now based very loosely on the lovely original Pimento Cheese by the Lee Brothers of South Carolina. Thanks!
makes one quart

Ingredients

  • 1- pound (16-oz) extra-sharp Cheddar cheese –coarsely grated (no pre-grated cheese allowed, please)
  • ½ cup (4-oz) plain fresh goat cheese or cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4- ounce jar chopped pimentos (1/2 cup) –drained well and pressed with paper towels to remove excess moisture
  • 4- ounce can mild, diced green chiles (1/2 cup) — drained well and pressed with paper towels to remove excess moisture
  • ½ pound cooked shrimp–tailed, peeled, deveined, patted dry, and chopped finely (I pulsed it in the food processor.)
  • 3 scallions, sliced thinly (reserve a tablespoon of the green slices for garnish)
  • 1 small plump garlic clove, minced
  • 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • Pinch each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice – or more to taste

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients to the bowl of a standing electric mixture and turn mixture first on to medium-low, then medium for a minute or two until well-mixed, smooth, and spreadable. Taste and adjust seasonings, including lemon juice. If you’ve a strong arm, do it all by hand. Serve now garnished with the reserved sliced green onions or store tightly covered in the fridge for up to three days. Freezes well for up to a month or so. Thaw overnight in the fridge.

Notes

COOK’S NOTE:  While you might grate the cheese or chop the shrimp in a food processor, don’t be tempted to mix up/process the entire recipe there.  The pimento cheese will be entirely too smooth or dippy.  Mixing it by hand or with an electric mixer will help maintain color, texture, and taste.
Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2023. All rights reserved.

CHANGE IT UP: Have lobster or crab instead of shrimp? Go for it. Very tasty with no seafood at all if that’s your druthers. Or try smoked salmon instead of shrimp. Start with 1/4 pound and add to taste. Green onion missing in your veg drawer? Use one tablespoon red or white onion, minced, instead — or to taste. Don’t need so much Pimento Cheese? Recipe cuts in half perfectly. Can use butter in place of some of the mayo, but not all. Out of lemon juice? Try 1/2 as much white or red wine vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings afterward. No Dijon mustard for you? Replace it with another tablespoon of mayo. Love heat? Add half jalapeño, minced, double the crushed red pepper, or add a shake or two of Tabasco. For a twist, shake in a little Worcestershire sauce.

OTHER THINGS TO DO WITH SHRIMP GREEN CHILE-PIMENTO CHEESE: Stir into scrambled eggs. Fill an omelet. Top off a hamburger or grilled chicken breast sandwich. Spread on cornbread. Stir into hot macaroni. Spoon on grits. Make a quesadilla. Add to a salad. Lather on your toast for breakfast and top with a fried egg, naturally. Stuff into cherry tomatoes. Eat with a spoon straight out of the refrigerator late at night. Champagne optional.

If you like this, you might also like my:

FRIDAY FISH: Shrimp Melt

FRIDAY FISH: Air Fryer Shrimp Louis Tacos

Shrimp + Green Chile Crustless Quiche


Are you a Pati Jinich fan as I am? Check out her “Seafood for Cuaresma” (Lent)

LIFE GOES ON:

“The babies” waiting for me at the top of the stairway.

Music to accompany the photograph (“Them There Eyes”/Ella)

above: We sleep in the basement and if husband and best sous Dave has gotten up before me, the dogs go upstairs with him to see if they can whine their way into eating breakfast any faster than they did the day before. After that, they wait for me and as I arrive at the staircase, this is my view. Should I stop on the landing as I usually do, I’ll receive kisses through the balusters. This is nothing coming from Miss Tongue (Rosie), but is quite unusual from Mr. Handsome (Tucker) who is stingy indeed with his kisses. Should he show you some smoochy love, you are IT.

Coffee and Walnut Cake/recipe by Nigella Lawson in the NYT

above: Our book club read THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB this month. It’s a laugh-out-loud (maybe a cry-out-loud, too) entertaining light cozy mystery I may have mentioned earlier. The part-time narrator, Joyce, often bakes for the club that attempts to solve myriad UK murders. Friend and February host Patti made the wonderful LEMON DRIZZLE (in a bundt) and I baked the truly easy and so luscious COFFEE AND WALNUT CAKE Joyce mentions. Fun stuff to make recipes mentioned in books. These are both very popular UK cakes, btw.

We had such weather for Ash Wednesday our church closed early. I improvised by drawing the sign of the cross on my forehead with my fingers and meditated on that. The day before, Fat or Shrove Tuesday, I made Red Beans and Rice — a much happier dinner than pancakes, which I love but aren’t on my current health regime anyway. I used my own recipe for the beans –which are good anytime, not just on Fat Tuesday– but did it in the slow cooker. Here at altitude, it took seven hours cooking on HIGH and still could have used a little longer. Perhaps my store-bought beans were old, as is often the case.

Years ago I wrote a day by day Lenten blog. If you’d like to follow along or read a bit, here it is. Interesting to go back now and see where I was then.

Thanks for keeping me company in my kitchen; you’re so welcome here. Still kind of cold in Colorado, so I’ll continue to say:

Stay warm and make some cheese,

Alyce

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