Visit nearly any home in the Southern part of the United States on a weekday afternoon, and it won’t be long before your kindly host breaks out a bowl of pimento cheese. The Southern staple, a simple mix of cheese, mayonnaise, and sweet peppers, is a quick, inexpensive dip to serve to a group of good friends (the kind that you’re not overly preoccupied with impressing), served with crackers, corn chips, bread, pretzels, or scooped up with ribs of celery.
While plenty of brands of fluorescent orange processed pasteurized versions of pimento cheese can be found in supermarkets nationwide, it’s difficult to imagine why you wouldn’t just whip up a bowl from scratch. Some of the best pimento cheese we’ve ever tasted is made up of just a few real ingredients (typically cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper, though some people do schmancy the dish up with additional cream cheese, Monterrey Jack, or scallions); try the tubs of the pre-mixed stuff, and you’re spreading as many chemicals, sweeteners, and flavorings onto your crackers as you are real food, with a resulting product that still doesn’t seem to capture the flavorful sharp cheddar bite, and the mild warming heat, of a batch whipped up at home. Make it from scratch, and it tastes almost like a cheese spread mixed with a fine alcoholic cocktail; a really, really dirty martini, if you will.
This recipe makes a fairly large batch of pimento cheese. What to do with the leftovers? It’s a decadent addition to a cheeseburger, an incredible foundation for a grilled cheese sandwich (with bacon), and tastes great baked into stuffed mushroom caps. Of course, you can always polish the leftovers off the way I do: Straight out of the bowl, in the middle of the night, fridge door open, with a spoon.
- 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 4-ounce jar pimentos, drained and diced
- 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/8 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Chill for at least an hour to let flavors meld. Serve with crackers or bread.