Listen, call me old fashioned, but when the weather goes from this:
I start thinking about pimiento cheese sandwiches.
Well, I do.
Not following my train of thought? Okay, I'll break it down for y'all. It's morning afterall, you're still sleepy.
When the weather hits about 65°, sun shinin', bird's singin', sky skyin' its deepest, darkest shade of blue, Mama can't resist but to drag out her pickanic basket and get packin'. And to me, it's not a picnic if you aren't serving up some homemade pimento cheese sandwiches.
(And some fried chicken.)
(And don't forget the deviled eggs.)
(ARGH. Now I'm hungry.)
Which is why on Sunday when we woke up and took a quick peek outside, confirmed our suspicions that THIS IS THE MOST PERFECT DAY GOD EVER MADE, EVER, I sprang from my bed, trounced down to my kitchen, and gathered up what I'd need to mix up a batch what I consider to be The Eighth Wonder, my Mom's recipe for homemade pimiento cheese.
Now I love pretty much any pimiento cheese, except for maybe that weird stuff you buy in buckets out of the cold foods section of the grocery store. That stuff is usually waaaaaaaay too sweet and may, based on its color, texture and taste, not even be made out of any actual real cheese at all. But REAL pimento cheese, to me, is as much a harbinger of spring as the first probing shoots of daffodil stems peeking out into the cold FebRUary wind.
It appears to me that like many of the things I love, pimiento cheese is a Southern thang. Case in point, when I first got out of school and moved to Wisconsin for a couple years, I went into my local grocery store to buy pimiento-cheese fixins and couldn't locate the pimientos. I searched and I quested and I rooted, scoured and dug, and there were no pimientos to be found.
"Where do y'all stock your pimientos?" I asked a store clerk.
"Could you say that in English?" he requested.
Hmmmmmmmm. I don't know how to say "Where do y'all stock your pimientos?" in Wisconsinite. It doesn't translate. See? Southern thang. At the BiLo's in my home town, they have a red tape line on the floor that goes direc'ly from the front door to the location of the pimientos. With signs along the way that say, "Y'all lookin' fer the pee-minners? They ovah heeyah."
True story: Last weekend Al and I watched the last couple hours of The Masters on TV. (MY GOSH y'all that course is the prettiest place in the world. I fully expect when I die to look into the light for as long as my eyes can take it, blink, and then open 'em again to behold Amen Corner, St. Peter lookin' up from the green to whisper, "Be with you right after God sinks this putt for the birdie. Rejoice quietly to yourself for a minute, m'kay?")
(It's a notoriously tough hole, y'all!)
We both sat riveted as some fancy camera and computer work gave us the ball's eye view of the fairway after Tiger sailed a drive off the 17th tee, up, up and over. Al watched the arc of the ball, noted the location of the pin, and, moaning a little, offered up, "Oh, he's not gonna like that one."
Me? I'm shouting "Oh, a little more to the left! Little more to the left! C'mon ball! Go LEFT!"
"It's nothing but TREES to the left, woman. What are you saying?"
"I know. The ball's going in the rough. Sigh. I was just hopin' to catch a glimpse of one of the little green shacks where they sell the pimiento cheese sandwiches."
Yeah, even at The Masters, with Tiger five strokes over but closing the gap quickly, pimiento cheese can steal the show. Well, my show anyway.
But even that pimiento cheese, pimiento cheese good enough for St. Peter and Tiger himself, can't hold a candle to my Mom's pimiento cheese.
Which is why, even this far into a post that is already entirely too long, I'ma tell y'all how to make it. And y'all'll thank me for this, one day, I can promise you that.
FriedOkra's Mama's Pimiento Cheese (alternatively known as Pimiento AND Cheese)Here's what you'll need.
And if you like things really spicy, you'll want to bring this guy to the party, too.
- 2 cups grated SHARP cheddar - But if you want to be exactly like my Mom, buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself. (Don't bother with anything milder. It just won't hold up to the other flavors.)
- 1/3ish cup Hellmann's mayo (I may be thrifty, but when it comes to mayo, Mama don't play.)
- a PEENCH of onion powder
- 1/2 of a jalapeno pepper, diced eversofine
- A little jar of pimentos, drained (I forgot to note how many ounces it was. But it's TINY.)
- 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
- Tabasco® to taste
Now, I will be honest with y'all. I normally perpetrate this entire deal in my food processor, because I dig the ease with which everything comes together AND you know, it's easy. But for the sake of the pictures and to entertain the Bean, who was "helping" me in the kitchen, I did it all by hand.
Dice your jalapeño up very fine. And please, PLEASE wear gloves or do like I did and slip a plastic bag over your hand so you don't get jalapeño juice on you. Oh, the stories I could tell you about accidental contact with jalapeño juice. But that's for another day, people. Another day.
Now put all of your ingredients into a great big mixing bowl.
What? You don't know what a peench of onion salt is?
'Bout like that.
Mix it all together well. Until it's creamy and dotted with green and red bits and starting to make your mouth water.
The only way. I SAID THE ONLY WAY! To serve pimiento cheese in sandwich form is on PLAIN OLD WHITE WONDER BREAD. To put it on anything else would be an utter and complete travesty.
(ALTHOUGH, and I'm only telling you this because you are dear friends and I love you and want you to experience the best life has to offer, this spread is also phenomenal on a toasted sesame bagel AND, as completely unconventional as this sounds, you will be amazed at what a fancy and delicious little hors d'oeuvre it makes if you spread it on little crostini and put it under the broiler for a minute! Maybe garnish it with a slice of jalapeno or a little sliver of roasted red pepper? Mmmm.)
And last but not least, for it to be official - an Official Pickanic-Approved Pimiento Cheese Sandwich - you have to wrap it in wax paper. Incidentally, when I pulled out our pimento cheese sandwiches for the picnic we had this past Sunday, Al said, umprompted, "Aw. They're even wrapped in wax paper. Mama, you think of everything. It just wouldn't be a picnic if the sandwiches weren't wrapped in wax paper."
Do you see why I love this man? Do you?
And when you've wrapped your sammiches in the wax paper, you'll need to start referring to your picnic basket as a hamper. And you'll need to wear a freshly ironed gingham dress with a Peter Pan collar to the picnic. And a chiffon scarf tied over your hairdo, and some black cat-eye sunglasses. Like I do.
'Cause I'm old fashioned like that.