Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pimento Cheese

One of our culinary discoveries since moving to the south is pimento (or pimiento) cheese, a dish which, according to a 2007 NPR story "is so ingrained in the lives of many Southerners that we don't realize our passion for the stuff doesn't exist outside the region." In fact, a friend recommended the Whole Foods version, which we tried and enjoyed, and, when we were in Potomac for an occasion a couple of years ago, I popped into the Mclean store, thinking that I would introduce the dish to my inlaws as an appetizer for a meal I was doing. When I couldn't find it, I asked the lady beyond the counter where I could find pimento cheese. She looked at me quizzically. "What?" "Pimento cheese." I said. "Nope." So its reach doesn't seem to extend to Northern Virginia.

In looking for a recipe to share with this post, I assumed that either my Junior League of Raleigh or "Best of the South" cookbooks would have a recipe. Neither did, and I suspect that this is because the dish is seen as low-class, perhaps because its origins are traced to the glory days of the textile industry, when workers, who were not allowed to take lunch breaks, would eat white bread pimiento cheese sandwiches at their looms. It is only recently that the dish has been reclaimed, and reworked into aberrations such as pimento cheese scones or panko-crusted deep fried pimento cheese. 
The only way I've eaten it, besides on a piece of bread, is in a grilled cheese sandwich or atop a burger. Both are incredible. Here is the recipe from Southern Living:

Basic Pimiento Cheese Recipe
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 (4-oz.) jar diced pimiento, drained
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. finely grated onion
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1 (8-oz.) block extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 (8-oz.) block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
Stir together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in cheese. Store in refrigerator up to 1 week.

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