Pimento Cheese and BLTs
Just about this time last year, I made pimento cheese and hated it.
My Mom and Dranny found it very amusing. They figured that it was something I just wouldn’t like no matter what, and they had fun telling me, “We told you so!”.
At the time – and despite the “I told you so’s” – I was in agreement with them. What was I thinking? Pimento cheese. Bleh….
Flash forward a few months, and I was in North Carolina for work and introduced to The Pit BBQ. During one of my several visits to The Pit (ps – i really like the pit), I decided it was time to listen to the Twitter hive mind’s advice to try The Pit’s pimento cheese BLTs served on biscuits.
I was – to say the least – skeptical about trying these due to the pimento cheese. And I was wrong.
Bacon and biscuits make everything better. And the pimento cheese itself wasn’t so bad either. I suppose. (okay, i cleaned the plate and wanted more.)
So, as previously stated, my success with cheese straws and crackers coupled with my memories of The Pitt BBQ’s pimento cheese BLTs convinced me I should give pimento cheese another try. Again, I consulted the Twitter hive mind (a wonderful resource, btw). The result was the recommendation to use Miss Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s recipe from The Gift of Southern Cooking.
With a fresh batch of homemade mayonnaise chilling in the fridge, I got to work on the second hardest part of making pimento cheese – grating the cheese.
After that, it’s all down hill.
Measure. Mix. Stir.
Yeah. Real hard. (assuming you’ve forgotten the torture of whisking the mayonnaise into mayonnaise and nearly losing an arm to the whisking.)
Sampling this batch of pimento cheese, I found it to be just right. No overkill on the spices. No inappropriate use of cream cheese. No need to abuse mass quantities of cheese by chucking a disgusting batch into the garbage disposal. In fact, this was much more in line with my expectations of pimento cheese during my disastrous first attempts.
The real difference here was the restrained use of high-quality ingredients as opposed to a whole mess of ingredients and seasonings. With some really good cheese, homemade mayonnaise and a splash of seasonings, you have recipe that is worthy of Southern adulation.
Although, I will say, it’s not really anything I could see eating on stalk of celery.
Instead, I decided to recreate my experience at The Pit except I had a hankering for cornbread, not biscuits. Pimento cheese BLTs on cornbread taste fine and all, but my cornbread isn’t sturdy enough to be used as sandwich bread. So, while it tasted just fine, I wouldn’t recommend cornbread due to the mess factor.
I would, however, recommend a couple of slices of really good, fresh from the bakery Italian bread. That worked out just perfectly and deliciously. In fact, it worked out so well that it took a whole lot of will power to not make a second sandwich for myself that very same night.
(from The Gift of Southern Cooking)
2 1/2 cups of finely grated extra-sharp cheese
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 or 6 grinds of black pepper
3/4 homemade mayonnaise*
3 tablespoons finely chopped roasted bell peppers or pimento**
Stir everything all together in a mixing bowl. Test taste it. Adjust the seasonings until it suits your taste buds. Refrigerate it if you’re not going to use it right away.
*No cheating! Homemade mayonnaise makes the difference. Besides. If I can make homemade mayonnaise, I don’t want to hear any whining about it being hard.
**If you want to be lazy, this is where you do it. Buy the fancy roasted red bell peppers they sell at Whole Foods or your local Italian deli or whathaveyou. Chop them up, toss ’em in. No one has to know you didn’t roast them yourself and they taste better than jarred pimentos.