Pimento Cheese

Last year, Mark and I went on an amazing road trip from New York to Miami,  literally eating our way south – Crab Cakes and Cocktails in Charleston, Cuban in Miami, Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bars in Orlando and lots of BBQ in the Carolinas.

Our meal at The Pit in Raleigh was by far the best.  The BBQ was incredible and too much to finish, but another highlight was having our first taste of the Southern staple pimento cheese.

After returning home and raving about the food to Rebecca, I learned that she not only was familiar with pimento cheese from her youth in Kentucky, but she also had a preferred recipe from Southern Living.  A year later, I finally got around to asking her for it, so I could try it myself.  and re-live Mark’s and my journey down South.

Challenge number one was finding the pimentos.  Luckily, Rebecca had given me some tips on navigating the supermarket.  I chose a jar from the jarred olive/peppers section, but there were more to be found with all of the Goya products. Challenge number two was finding Colby cheese, which was to be combined with Cheddar (an easy find).  A search among the block cheeses turned up only Colby-Jack.  Mark had the idea to check at the deli counter who assured us they had Colby.  Sadly, when we got home, it was also Colby-Jack.  Not a major issue, but I guess we’re not 100% authentic.

After a whole lot of cheese shredding, and a quick dice of the pimentos, it was time to “cook.”

Step one – mix mayo, sage, lemon juice, dry mustard, cayenne pepper and Worcestershire sauce:

Step two – add the cheese and pimentos:

Step three – figure out how to eat the completed dish:

Rebecca recommended spreading it on toast or celery.  Southern Living posted 13 ways to eat Pimento cheese – from cheeseburgers to scones (huh?).  At The Pit we had it in fried form.  So many options!  Since Mark and I were thinking dinner, we went for pimento cheese sandwiches, something we picked up from our local Southern neighborhood restaurant, Van Horn.

Mark opted to follow Van Horn’s method by making it in a grilled cheese format:

I took on a slightly dressed down version by toasting the bread first:

To balance out the mayo/cheese fest we were about to enjoy, I threw together a salad while our sandwiches toasted/grilled:

The two sandwiches came out slightly different, but the ultimate review was the same: YUM.  Mark and I each preferred our own methods, which worked out well since we were both able to prepare hot sandwiches simultaneously – win-win!

The only downside to the recipe was that it yielded A LOT of pimento cheese and we couldn’t eat all of it before it went bad.  It was sad watching it go to waste, but there is only so much mayo and cheese I can eat in a few days.  Next time, I’ll either cut the portion down or invite some folks over for a big, Southern feast.  Perhaps Mark could make his pulled pork and homemade BBQ sauce and pickles (I’m not the only chef in the house…). You’re all invited!

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