Do we know how to celebrate in Chucktown?
YES WE DO.
Pimento Cheese pg. 57
1-2-3-4 Cake with Caramel Icing pgs. 567 & 580
Hoppin' John pg. 175
A Mess of Greens with Pot Likker pg. 206
Braised Pork Shoulder pg. 404
Light and Tender Cornbread pg. 477
I started my new challenge of "fixin'' all of the recipes from Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking with my husband and son on the sidelines, cheering me on. Real success! There was not a "stinker" in the lot of seven recipes I tackled for both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. I bow to you, Ms. Dupree, as your pork roast was voted "BestporkIevahadinmylife" award by my NY transplant Dad (who happened to work in the NYC meat paking district for over 25 years). High praise, indeed.
The Pimento Cheese and cake were made for the Eve, to take to a friend's shindig. It also happened to be my friend Lynn's birthday and the cake was beautiful gift of love and gooey caramel filling...ooohh. Aside from a wad of cash, what is better than gooey caramel cake with vanilla buttercream as a birthday gifty?
The Hoppin' John, greens & pot likker, pork shoulder, and cornbread were served for a New Year's Day feast.
I'm covering solely the Pimento Cheese today while I find my blogging groove.
The search for the perfect Pimento Cheese has a certain fervor for me. I made some sad attempts: too loose, too one-note, too heavy. I was trying all my cooking sensibilities but they were failing me. I took one glance at MTAOSC's version and realized how I'd over thought the simple dish! Ms. Dupree recommends Duke's mayonnaise and I agree. I grew up on Hellman's (Best Food Brand in other parts of the country). Duke's has a wonderful creamy body, silkier than Hellman's. Duke's is now my staple mayo, but Hellman's will certainly do. Don't you dare try Miracle Whip.
What struck me about the recipe was the simple list of ingredients and their ratios. Pimento cheese is really about cheese, with some chopped roasted pepper and a binder of mayonnaise. This did make perfect sense. My failed attempts were often too soupy, I was adding too much mayo (or a combo of cream cheese and mayo=bad.) Achieving the proper body was all in the cheese.
Nathalie's recipe didn't give special instructions for shredding the cheese. From my own experimentation, I found that the dish is more interesting when I use both large and fine grating holes and alternate. I think it looks great and adds a bit of textural dimension and it really is no more work that turning your box grater. I also add a little shot of garlic powder and hot sauce. This is perhaps the only dish I make (aside from a dry rub) where I use garlic powder. I don't really like it but the Pimento Cheese seemed to come alive with just a bit in the mix. I used Trader Joe's Fire Roasted Peppers in brine. It has some flecks of garlic which I rinsed away. I drained the peppers well, cut into strips, then into dice. TJ's has both yellow and red peppers in the jar, making for a very pretty dip. They are tossed with the grated cheese and then dressed with the mayo. Here is where I added the garlic and hot sauce (just a couple of drops) and a good grinding of black pepper and a dash of salt. Done! Chill for a bit and serve with the fancy-pants version of Ritz butter rounds found at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. My version is unlike MTAOSC in that I hand chopped and mixed. Ms. Dupree uses the food processor for even easier prep.
One of our favorite Charleston eateries, The Tattooed Moose (who will soon have a post of their own, they deserve it!) serves a delicious Pimento Cheese with Horseradish and Bacon. They serve with slices of chorizo, wowza. So yea, some sausage slices are a nice accompaniment! I ordered a bowl of their tomato soup with smoky Spanish paprika to go along with it and I had a seriously great meal.
This is great as a party dip, as a substitute for regular cheese in a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich, or on top of a crispy fried green tomato (or a crispy fried anything for that matter).
Here is the finished dish. So Southern, so simple. The plate was licked clean, so I'm thinking this was a winner.
Looking forward to sharing the rest of the New Year's dishes but I'm taking my sweet time and not rushing it, like a true Southerner.