June 30, 2021. Dear Kids– While your Mom is famous, at least in our family and among our friends, for her elaborate and delicious cheese boards that feature many cheeses, cured meats, spreads, fruits, nuts, jams, etc., I now offer you my humble take on a cheese board (aka long plate), but with a southern take that really only features one cheese- the Cheese of the South- Pimento Cheese. Now, while my cheese plate only has one cheese, Pimento cheese, it’s nevertheless a cheese strong enough to carry an entire cheese plate on its own. I add a little help with a BBQ twist on crostini for a crunchy delivery system for the cheese and some quick pickles to balance out the richness of the bite. Also, along for the ride, if you have the time and especially if you’re entertaining, are a few more Southern Bites- deviled eggs, black eyed pea hummus and pulled chicken pate. You can find recipes for all these in The Lecture. As for a drink pairing, I’ll leave the wine to Mom, and instead recommend the southern classic of an ice cold bottle of Coke with some gas station peanuts poured into it for a sweet, savory and salty finish.
My pimento cheese recipe is pretty much lifted from (some would say inspired by) a recipe in the Southern Table, by renowned southern chef, Frank Stitts. It’s also quite similar to the recipe Sean Brock, another acclaimed southern chef, shared with readers in Garden and Gun magazine, so it must be a good. BTW, I love that there’s a magazine called Garden and Gun– you definitely don’t want to be sneaking into the gardens of these gun packing plant lovers! I particularly like the addition of cream cheese in the recipe, which makes the cheese even more spreadable and meltable, as the case may be.
In the unlikely event you find yourself with some leftover Pimento Cheese, there are no shortage of ideas to finish it up- slather it with abundance on burgers or dogs; melt it into drained, cooked pasta for a quick and rich mac and cheese (a ratio of 1 ounce of cheese by weight for every 1 ounces of dried pasta by weight should work well); make a pimento cheese sandwich which is famously available each year at the Masters Golf Tournament for only a $1.50 (last time I checked); spoon it into grits; or warm it up and use it for a topping, along with pickled jalapeños and pulled pork or chicken, on Southern Nachos.
Prep Time: 20-30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 8-10 as an appetizer
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
- 1-2 red bell peppers (8-10 ounces total)
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup (3 3/4 ounces) mayonnaise
- fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 1-3 teaspoons hot sauce, or whatever “secret” vinegar based “sauce” you like- Worcester Sauce, Pickle Juice, etc.
- 16 ounces extra sharp and orange cheddar cheese, shredded on large holes of box grated or purchased pre grated, if you’re in a rush
- 1-2 cucumbers, trimmed and cut into long, wide strips with a vegetable peeler
- 3 rainbow carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into long, wide strips with a vegetable peeler
- 1 small bunch of radishes, trimmed and sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler, optional
- 1/3 cup apple cider or other vinegar and a bit of water- enough to cover pickles
- kosher salt, to taste
BBQ Spiced Crostini
- 1 baguette, cut into 1/4 inch slices on the diagonal (aka “bias”)
- 2 tablespoons, or more, canola oil
- kosher salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoon, or to taste, of your favorite store bought BBQ spice mix or make your own by mixing: 4 tbs. paprika, 2 tbs, dark brown sugar, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp black pepper (save extra in an airtight container)
Other Fun Vittles For the Plate
Like deviled eggs, black eyed pea hummus and pulled chicken pate- all recipes in The Lecture Below.
COOK AND PLAY
Play “Biscuits” by Kacey Musgraves and listen to some great advice, which includes, “Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy”, while you whip up these vittles. PS- Pimento Cheese is great on biscuits, too. Click here for the Official Dad’s Dinner Diary Cook and Playlist!
- Roast Those Peppers. Roast, steam, peel, trim, seed and cut peppers into a small dice, then get those diced peppers into a large bowl. If you don’t know how to roast steam, peel, trim and seed peppers, take a peek at how to do so in The Lecture. You can also use jarred pimento peppers, but you didn’t hear that from me.
- Getting Cheesy. While the diced peppers are still slightly warm (the heat will help incorporate the cream cheese into the “dressing”), add cream cheese, most of the mayo, black pepper and hot sauce to peppers in the bowl. Stir everything up to a nice consistency and then stir in cheese until everything is well incorporated. Add more mayo if you like. Serve in a bowl.
- Place cucumber and carrot (see Warning) slices into a small container, massage some kosher salt into the slices and mix in enough vinegar and a bit of water to cover. If you decide to pickle some radishes, cover with vinegar/water in a separate container. Stir veggies up a bit from time to time or pour into a sandwich bag you’ll be sure to seal up securely and place in a bowl just in case it leaks. Vegetables will be ready to go, and mildly pickled, after 30 minutes or so. You can improve pickle with several hours of refrigerated storage where the pickles will keep for several days. To serve, stack several, colorful slices, roll into a cylinder and spear one, or a few, on a toothpick.
Warning: If you want to use red carrots for the color, I would not pickle them as the color leaches into the water and lighter color vegetables, leaving lighter colored carrots with a pinkish hue and the red carrots not so red anymore. As you can see in the picture below, I put some red carrots slices in water. The water made the slices curl up a bit and the curly slices would look nice and add a fresh crisp bite if you wanted to add them to your plate.
BBQ Spiced Crostini
- Oil, Spice and Everything Nice. Set up an oven rack in the middle of your oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place baguette slices on a large sheet pan in a single layer (I could fit all slices from a loaf on a 3/4 sheet pan, but if your pan is smaller, you’ll have to toast in batches), drizzle oil evenly over slices, salt to taste and toss to better distribute oil and salt. Sprinkle BBQ spices evenly over slices and toss to better distribute spice.
- Getting Toasted. Toast slices in oven, turning pan from front to back (no need to flip slices) after 5 minutes, until both sides of slices are toasted to your liking, about 8-10 minutes total. Let slices cool slightly and arrange in a bowl or on plate.
So What Exactly Is a Pimento? A pimento is a red pepper that is smaller and sweeter than the more commonly available red bell pepper. Fresh pimentos are a challenge to find, but jarred pimentos are commonly available. As for me, I’m perfectly happy using red, yellow and/or orange roasted bell peppers for my pimento cheese.
How To Roast and Peel A Pepper. I have gas burners, so I always roast peppers right on top of a high flame, with the exhaust fan on and a fire extinguisher nearby, turning the pepper on all sides and top and bottom to evenly blacken before I toss them in a covered bowl for about 10 minutes to help loosen the skin for peeling. The burnt pepper skin will come off easily by scraping with your thumb and fingers and please don’t rinse off the flavor from the peppers once they are peeled. Cut out and discard all the stem and rinds and scrape off and discard seeds before you mince the peppers. If you don’t have gas burners or have a fear of burning things on your gas burner, cut your peppers in half lengthwise, place on a foiled lined baking sheet and broil on a rack about 5 inches from the broiler until blackened all over and peel and prep as mentioned above. This technique will work for any type of pepper you may need to roast- poblano, jalapeño, Anaheim, etc. In the slideshow below, you will see both options to burn off the skin- gas flame and broiler- the steam bowl and a board with the discard from peeling, trimming and seeding half of a pepper, next to the other half in waiting and the cleaned half in mid mince.
Cheese. While an orange color for the cheese is traditional, the type of cheese can vary, with American or even Velveeta not uncommon in older recipes. You really should use any cheese you like. I like sharp cheddar and I also have been know to swap out some of the cheddar for whatever interesting leftover cheese I have in my Cheese Drawer. For grating the cheese, the large holes of a box grater works (Dad Joke Alert) grate and a food processor, with grating disk, works even better for large batches if you don’t mind the clean up. There’s also no shame in buying a quality pre grated sharp cheddar when you’re in a hurry- I often am.
Deviled Eggs. Our family loves deviled eggs- we even have a treasured deviled egg holder from GM’s vintage kitchen collection for easy storage and transport as you can see below. Bring a medium pot (large enough to cover eggs with water) of water to a boil and carefully add 6 eggs and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain water, cool eggs with cold water, peel and cut in half lengthwise. Carefully spoon out yolks into a medium bowl, add a 1-2 teaspoons of your favorite mustard and enough mayonnaise to get the consistency you like- I usually go about a teaspoon per yolk- so about 2 generous tablespoons in this case. Spoon, or pipe if you want to be fancy (Dad’s generally don’t), egg filling back into whites and top with minced fresh herbs, sprinkles of BBQ spice, fresh crab, smoked salmon, minced pickles or something even better and more creative- I once made Nicoise Deviled Eggs where I mixed a bit of tuna into the egg mix and top the eggs with tiny diced Nicoise salad ingredients- green beans, olive, tomatoes and potatoes. Dad Advice- to keep your eggs from wobbling, make the bottom of the egg flat by cutting a thin egg strip off parallel to the bottom of the egg to remove the rounded bottom of the egg.
Black Eyed Pea Hummus. Drain and rinse a 15 ounce can of black eyed peas. Add that to a medium bowl or bowl of a food processor, along with 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1-2 minced scallions, a grated garlic clove, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Smash it all up in a bowl with a potato masher or fork for a rustic finish or blitz in food processor for a fancy, smooth finish- adding water to adjust to a spreadable consistency. Spoon into serving bowl and drizzle with more oil and garnish as you like. As an alternative, if you can find them, use an equal amount of shelled boiled peanuts for the black eyed peas- adjusting the salt, since these are very salty.
BBQ Pulled Chicken Pate. In a medium pan and over medium heat, briefly saute 1/4 cup of minced red onions with a pinch of salt. Once the onions start to soften, add 8-10 ounces of leftover, pulled or minced chicken (a fine mince and dark meat will give you a nicer consistency) and stir in a 1/4 cup of your favorite barbeque sauce, with a bit of water, and simmer to allow flavors to meld. If you like more BBQ Sauce, stir more in until you’re happy. If you want to go the extra mile, or kilometer for our Canadian readers, and for a bit more decadence-especially if you are using only white meat- mix in a few tablespoons of cream cheese after you add the BBQ Sauce. Spoon into serving bowl and garnish as you like.
Coke and Peanuts. Here’s a fun little sip that goes way back to the rural south that started as an efficient way for hard working folks with dirty hands to keep a free hand and have their soda and eat their peanuts too! Take a few sips from an ice cold Coke (preferably, in a glass bottle) before adding a good bunch of shelled peanuts (like the kind you get in a gas station). Sip and eat peanuts at your leisure- it will take a few sips to get into a rhythm, but once you do, you’ll be able to dispense the amount of soda and peanuts as you like. Call me crazy, but there’s a bit of a liquid peanut butter and jelly vibe going on with this. It’s also not difficult to turn this into a quick and easy dessert too- just fill a big glass with a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream, slowly pour in Coke and top with whipped cream and peanuts.
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