Pimento Cheese

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Everyone likes chip and dip. Don’t try to argue; it’s pretty much a fact. Even the people who are picky about which dip (‘salsa or guac but no sour cream please’). Even the ones who are germ-phobic and worry about cross-contamination in the dip bowl.* Those people are perhaps less excited about the individual chip and dip on display but the concept; it’s a slam dunk. Even with alternate dippers, like crackers or veggie sticks, the dip is generally a winner.

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In my parents’ home at parties there was no dip more ubiquitous than the French Onion, preferably from a mix. But, it pains me to say, it is not the most superior dip. I wouldn’t kick it out of bed or anything but there are just so many dips to choose from. This is not something where you can afford to commit to just one dip. Then you might miss something amazing, like Pimento Cheese, and then where would you be? That’s right, bereft, saddened, living a lonely pimento-cheese-less existence. The horror.

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If you, like me, didn’t grow up in the South, it may be a horror you’re all too familiar with. I hadn’t heard of it until a few years ago but now I can’t get enough. I mean, it’s cheese. That’s not a tough sell in my house. I’ve been lucky enough to find pimentos in a jar at my local store but if you aren’t so lucky you can either make them yourself (and earn some bragging rights) or just pick up a jar of plain roasted peppers in the store (no one will ever know). Share it around at your next party but don’t forget to save a few spoonfuls for an amazingly melty grilled cheese the next day.

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Pimento Cheese**

10 oz grated cheddar (white or orange)
¾ cup mayo (homemade if you can!)
½ cup diced pimentos, divided, plus their juice
Pinch of salt
½ tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp tabasco or other hot sauce (optional)

In the bowl of a food processor or a bowl big enough to fit your immersion blender, combine the grated cheese, mayo, and half the pimentos. Blend on medium for a few minutes or until the mix is fairly smooth and uniform. Move the mixture in a serving bowl and add the rest of the pimentos and a few spoonfuls of their juice (depending on how thick you want it), the salt, cayenne, and hot sauce, if using. Stir to combine and then serve with crackers, vegetable sticks, toasts, pretzels, whatever you can think of.

For a more chunky (are arguably traditional) version grate the cheese on smaller holes and simply mix everything together in a bowl. Delicious either way.

* I am not really in this camp but I do believe a host’s job is to make your guests comfortable so if your friends, like some of mine, get icked out about double dippers, put out a few bowls of the same dip(s) in strategic locations around the house so that not all of the dip will be ‘contaminated’ at once. This also makes it more likely that people will leave your kitchen and hang out elsewhere.

** It’s not that I’m suggesting you halve this recipe but it does make an awful lot in one batch. While the leftovers are pretty amazing and it keeps in the fridge for a while, a half recipe would be plenty for a small get-together.

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