Saturday, November 1, 2014

An Ode to Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese is one of those things that I don't know that I'd even heard of before moving to the South.  Do they even sell it in California?  I dunno.  Much like sausage balls, it was an amazing part of southern cuisine I missed out on for a large portion of my life.

Anyway, for years my husband has been dumbfounded by the fact that I've never tried it.  I've just never had the desire to try it...it looks funny.  It's orange and goopy looking.
Then came Tupelo Honey Cafe.

Tupelo Honey is a small, popular regional chain of restaurants that originated in Asheville, NC- one of my all-time favorite towns.

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I kicked off our anniversary weekend by having lunch at one of their locations.  Remember when I said I'd gone way off the diet wagon for a couple of weekends? Yeah...this didn't help.

At all.

We started with an appetizer of Appalachian Egg Rolls- egg rolls stuffed with "Slow-roasted pulled pork tossed in smoked jalapeno BBQ sauce, rolled with braised greens, pickled onions & shredded carrots"...sounds amazing, right?

Well, that was followed by my order of a Shoo Mercy Cheesy Grill...a grilled cheese sandwich on Texas toast with havarti, pimento cheese, caramelized onions, maple pepper bacon, smoked ham, fried green tomatoes, and fresh basil.

Oh.  My.  Word.

Bad picture- amazing sandwich :-)
I know, I know.  Way over the top.  But I saw that on the menu and just had to jump on it.  I was totally right to do so, because it was amazing.  How could something with ingredients like that not be amazing?

Life changing- and in that sandwich my love affair with pimento cheese was born.

How could I have made it 32 years without trying this stuff?

I couldn't get it off of my mind.  I imagined the possibilities...grilled cheese...quesadillas...melty hamburger topping...celery stick dipping...baked inside of crescent rolls...macaroni with pimento cheese....pimento deviled eggs...I could go on.

But I won't.  Not today at least :-)

Anyway, the next time I was at the store, that orange goop in the deli that I normally glanced right over caught my eye.  I bought a small package, thinking I'd have enough to nibble on for a couple of days.

Yeah, or not!
I nibbled a little, and truth be told I really don't like it much straight- that sharp cheddar is a little too sharp to nibble a bite of it plain, in my opinion.

So then I broke out the celery...nom nom nom...so good.  PERFECTION.  Did I mention that it's low carb perfection?  :-) I need it after the last couple of weekends I've had with food!

When I tired of celery, I broke out the low carb tortillas, smeared one with pimento cheese, and made it into a quesadilla.  
Now this stuff is good chilled, but melting it takes it to another level!
The cheddar and cream cheese get nice and gooey and mix together with all of the other flavors in the spread.  I had another one for dinner, and when I went grocery shopping yesterday I bought ingredients to make a batch for myself and another small container to tide me over until I got the chance to mix it all up.

Yep- addicted.

I can't wait to play with the possibilities this stuff has, the near future holds a great deal of fun for my kitchen!

For now, I'm just happy I've got a big bowlful of my own in the fridge...grilled cheese anyone?

3 C sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded 
8 oz cream cheese, softened 
1/2 C mayonnaise 
4 oz diced pimento, drained 
1 Tbsp minced pickled jalapeƱo 
1 tsp brine from pickled jalapeƱos 
1/2 tsp onion powder 
1/2 tsp cayenne 
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 
1/2 tsp sugar 
1/2 tsp ground black pepper 
1/4 tsp garlic powder 
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in stand mixer or food processor until well combined. Allow to chill for 1 hour before serving.

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