Thursday, February 11, 2010
Homemade Pimiento Cheese, for Stuffing or Slathering
Do you ever find that when you're making party food, you end up with 99% bready snacks? Crostini, chips and dip, little pizzettes, cheese straws, etc? Not that I have a problem with carbs (clearly) but I don't like filling my guests up with loads of starches. They get full and then they don't drink as much and then we have nothing to talk about the next day. No thank you - I prefer my guests on the loose side of the goose.
Speaking of imbibing, over the holidays I made this incredibly wonderful homemade pimiento cheese from the Down Home with the Neely's cookbook. I hadn't encountered pimiento cheese, in any form, since I was little and was intrigued by making it from scratch. I threw a batch together, spread it on long slabs of sliced French bread, and baked them until bubbled and brown, crumpling cooked bacon over the top. As you can imagine, they were gone before I had time to unzip my camera case.
I wanted to make them again for the Superbowl but because we were also having pulled pork sandwiches, I didn't want to serve the pimiento cheese on bread. So I did what any other self respecting Texan would do and stuffed jalapenos with it instead. They were fantastic, if not a little on the ugly side as the cheese tends to crawl out of the peppers if you over stuff them (not a problem other than aesthetically as long as you grease your pan well.) If you want pretty stuffed peppers, go the old school route stuffing them with a long, narrow wedge of hard aged cheese, wrap them in bacon, secure them with a toothpick and bake.
But honestly, after trying these, I'll be hard pressed not to do the pimiento version every time. I know I sound like a newly converted Mormon or something, but this cheese is the cat's pajamas. Even Kris will grab this straight from the fridge, spread it on a piece of bread and eat it cold. I realize this isn't exactly James Bond daredevil behavior but you have to understand this is a man who hasn't eaten a ham and cheese sandwich other than in piping hot Croque Monsieur form since he was ten. To him, cheese just isn't cheese unless it's bubbling and burnt in places. But enough about him.
What I want to know is how you feel about the Neely's show on Food Network. I happen to love it (though I admit to decreasing the volume by 50% when it's on.) What charms me to pieces is their untamed, unedited love for cooking, and for each other. So many of Food Network's shows are so damned glossy and smiley and staged these days, I find the Neely's a welcome dose of genuine imperfection. And if any of their other recipes are as good as this damn cheese, you can't afford not to pay attention to them.
Homemade Pimiento Cheese
* Adapted slightly from the Neely's
* If you can't find pimiento peppers, simply use half a 7 oz jar of roasted red peppers - just drain them and chop them fine.
1 1/4 cups sharp white cheddar cheese
1 1/4 cups sharp regular (orange) cheddar cheese
3.5 oz pimientos from a jar, drained and chopped fine (usually just half of a 7 oz jar)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayo (I have used light mayo and it works great)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
half of a small garlic clove, finely minced or grated
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl with a fork, very well. You can also blend them in a small chop prep blender if you like a smoother, more traditional pimiento cheese consistency, though it won't make an ounce of difference taste wise. Cover and chill for at least two hours before serving, or chill for up to 4 days.
Serving suggestions - spread over sliced 1/2" rounds of French bread and bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes until golden brown in places. Top with cooked crumpled bacon. Or serve cold between slices of bread as sandwiches. Also great as a dip with chips or on prepared pizza dough, baked for 15 minutes at 400. Or of course stuffed in peppers as in the below recipe.
Pimiento Cheese Stuffed Peppers:
* The above pimiento cheese recipe will easily accommodate 13 whole peppers, or 26 halves for stuffing.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Add 13 whole jalapenoes to a pot of water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, and boil for about 4 minutes or just right before they turn from that beautiful bright green to a God awful poo green. Transfer the jalapenoes to an ice bath to shock them for several minutes. Remove them from the bath and pat dry with paper towels.
Once dry, cut the jalapenoes in half, length-wise, removing the seeds and veins with a spoon. Pat the insides dry, then begin stuffing with the pimiento cheese. Remember not to pile it too high or it will just all ooze out anyway.
Place the stuffed jalapeno halves onto a greased rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool slightly before serving.