Divine southern pimento cheese spread in 5 easy steps _ peppers _ susan lutz

» Beyond fads: Glorious roasted red peppers On a recent road trip through the Shenandoah Valley and West Virginia, I found myself on a quest for good, old-fashioned pimento cheese. Baked mussels with spicy mayo recipe It’s a Southern delicacy with deep roots — a magical mixture of cheese, fat and spice that my grandmother would make as her private stash of comfort food, but one that she would share with me when I was a child. Spicy chipotle mayo sauce recipe When I saw it on the menu of a roadside diner in rural Virginia, I was delighted and told my husband he was in for a treat. Spicy mayo recipe sriracha But this version of pimento cheese was cold, hard and — worst of all — bland.

Real japanese spicy mayo recipe For the rest of the trip I insisted on trying pimento cheese at every diner and restaurant where I could find it. Spicy sushi sauce mayo recipe We ate several truly terrible versions and each time I would say, “I swear this isn’t how it’s supposed to taste!”

At our last stop, we found ourselves at a tiny restaurant called The Shack in Staunton, Va. Spicy mayo sauce recipe japanese And here, at last, was pimento cheese that tasted the way it should: sweet, salty, creamy, with a bit of a kick.

It was clear that somebody at The Shack also knew the power of good pimento cheese. Spicy mayo sauce recipes The Shack’s tiny size is balanced by its enormous reputation. Spicy mayo recipe for chicken sandwich Southern Living Magazine ranked it as one of the South’s top 10 best new restaurants in 2014. Chipotle mayo sauce recipe I talked to Ian Boden, chef/owner of The Shack and asked him, given the short menu and the large reputation, why this lowly homespun cheese spread was special enough to make it into regular rotation. Smashburger chipotle mayo recipe Boden’s answer was simple: “A big part of what I try to do is connect with people. Spicy mayo dipping sauce recipe And I think pimento cheese, especially in the South, connects with everybody.”

The power of pimento cheese, whether made by a renowned Southern chef or my own Granny Willie, was connection. Chili mayo sauce recipe Now I had to connect.

Fresh sweet Italian peppers, fresh pimento peppers and jarred whole sweet peppers can all be used to make pimento cheese. Chipotle mayo dip recipe Credit: Copyright 2015 Susan Lutz

I had tasted the real deal. Sweet chili mayo sauce recipe Now I wanted to make my own. How to make spicy mayo for sweet potato fries My grandmother never wrote down her recipe, so I had to start from scratch. How to make spicy mayo for burgers Thus began my quest to create the perfect pimento cheese. How to make spicy mayo without sriracha What started in a series of roadside restaurants ended in my own garden. How to make spicy mayo at home In spring I hunted down pimento pepper plants (not a small feat, as it turned out) and planted them in the small raised bed in my backyard. How to make spicy mayo for sandwiches I figured you can’t make decent pimento cheese without fresh pimento peppers.

But then I realized that fresh pimentos were actually a break from tradition. Chipotle mayo dipping sauce recipe My grandmother used pre-chopped pimento peppers preserved in vinegar. Easy chipotle mayo sauce recipe Most women of her generation did the same thing. Spicy mayonnaise recipe for sandwiches Even chef Boden admits the cultural importance of this lowly jarred product. How to make spicy mayonnaise for sushi rolls The recipe served at The Shack also comes from a grandma — the grandmother of cook Brian Cromer. Recipe for spicy mayo sauce Boden admits that if Cromer had his way, they would always make pimento cheese with chopped jarred pimento peppers, just as his grandma did.

But these days, Boden and his staff use fresh pimento peppers in season and tinned piquillo peppers the rest of the time. Recipe for japanese spicy mayo I figured my backyard pimentos would work.

Fresh Nardello peppers from my local farmers market make a good substitute for pimentos in “pimento” cheese. How to make spicy mayo sauce for sushi Copyright 2015 Susan Lutz

The problem now was that I only had a limited supply of homegrown peppers. Spicy tuna roll recipe no mayo If I wanted to experiment, I’d have to look beyond the walls of my raised garden bed. How to make spicy mayo with sriracha As it turns out, the biggest barrier to making good pimento cheese was the limited availability (and seasonality) of fresh pimento peppers.

I started looking around for substitute peppers. How to make spicy mayo poke And if I was going to experiment, then I might as well try different fresh peppers, as well as jarred pickled peppers. How to make spicy ahi poke with mayo One of the most interesting peppers I tried were Nardello peppers, which were recommended to me by a helpful vendor at my farmers market. How to make spicy mayo for fish tacos Slightly sweet, but with a satisfying crunch, Nardello peppers have a little more depth of flavor than a traditional pimento. How to make spicy japanese mayo I brought home a bunch to begin my experiment.

Broiling peppers in a toaster oven keeps the kitchen cool on a hot summer day. How to make japanese spicy mayo Copyright 2015 Susan Lutz

Once I had gathered my peppers — homegrown pimentos, sweet Italian, and Nardello — the next step was to roast them. Ingredients for spicy mayo Roasting the peppers is the most time-consuming part of the process. Spicy mayo dipping sauce for sweet potato fries I like to roast peppers in a toaster oven, but it can be done in a full-sized oven or even over a gas burner. Sweet chilli mayonnaise recipe I broiled 5 or 6 at a time for 15 minutes on each side, until they began to shrivel and the skins began to turn black in spots. Chili lime mayo recipe (This would take less time in a traditional oven.)

Classic pimento cheese calls for a few simple ingredients—sharp cheddar cheese, green onion, Duke’s mayonnaise, cayenne, salt and pepper. Neil perry lime and chilli mayonnaise recipe I add sriracha hot chili sauce to the mix as well. Smoked chilli mayo recipe Copyright 2015 Susan Lutz

While letting my roasted peppers cool, I began working on the cheese base. Simple spicy mayo recipe I used my grandmother’s version –never written down, but clear in my taste memory — as inspiration. Low fat mayonnaise recipe yogurt It begins with a great mayonnaise blended with shredded sharp cheddar and cream cheese. Low fat mayo recipe But I was concerned about exactly what kind of cheese I needed to get the traditional flavor. Low fat vegan mayo recipe When I asked Boden, his answer surprised me: “Pimento cheese is junk food, so why not use junk food ingredients?” Boden mixes Cabot sharp cheddar cheese (a pretty good industrially produced cheese) and a style he calls “government cheese” to get the right flavor profile. Chinese spicy mayo recipe “If you use a really good quality cheddar, it’s way too sharp and the texture gets chalky, and it’s just not right,” he said. Mexican spicy mayo recipe “If you go to the grocery store and see the cellophane packages that say “best value” — that’s the cheese we’re talking about.”

Boden is also a big fan of Duke’s Mayo for his base — Duke’s being a tangy (and less-sweet) favorite Southern brand for nearly a hundred years.

The final step in making pimento cheese is adding the chopped peppers to the cheese base. Poke recipe spicy mayo Copyright 2015 Susan Lutz

After I created the base, I scraped the skin off my cooled roasted peppers, de-seeded and diced them and tossed them into the mix. Calories in spicy mayo For experimental purposes I made small batches, each with a different kind of pepper.

One of the reasons I liked The Shack’s pimento cheese is that it conformed to my own ideas about how good pimento cheese should taste. Carbs in spicy mayo Boden has similar thoughts on flavor balance in pimento cheese. How many calories in spicy mayo “I think a lot of pimento cheeses tend to be out of whack as far as flavor goes,” Boden said. Best chipotle mayo recipe “I think ours has a good balance of sweet, and I know acidity in cheese is supposed to be a negative thing, but I think it has just enough acidity. Simple chipotle mayo recipe I like a little heat in mine, so that brings it back into balance.” The Shack brings even more acidity to its spread by adding the brine from house-made spicy bread and butter pickles. How to make spicy mayo It’s delicious, but too far from my grandmother’s ideal for my purposes. Recipe for spicy mayo To add my own kick, I gave each batch a healthy dose of Sriracha sauce.

The result: perfection. Japanese spicy mayo recipe At least for me. Spicy mayo sauce recipe With Boden’s help, I had created a taste of my childhood and of rural Shenandoah Valley. Spicy mayo recipe sushi My version is an ode to my grandmother, but it isn’t a recipe she’d recognize. Spicy mayo recipe for burgers I suspect she’d say it was too spicy, too oniony, and not nearly sweet enough. How to make spicy mayo for sushi Time marches on and so do taste trends.

I gorged myself on the homegrown pimento pepper version and — to my surprise — my California-bred husband and my two daughters dug into the Nardello version, spreading it on crackers, French bread, celery and then fingers. Chilli mayonnaise recipe It was Southern junk food at its best. Spicy mayo for sushi And I think Granny Willie would be proud.

In the South, pimento cheese is traditionally served with Ritz crackers or celery — sometimes both. Easy chipotle mayo recipe Credit: Copyright 2015 Susan Lutz

Cook time: 30 minutes, unless using commercially jarred peppers, which require no cooking time

3 or 4 large pimento or other fresh sweet peppers of similar size. Easy spicy mayo recipe You may substitute 1/3 cup jarred or canned pimento, sweet Italian or piquillo peppers, finely diced.

8 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) sharp orange cheddar cheese, shredded on a box grater

1. Sushi spicy mayo recipe Roast peppers under a hot broiler, turning at least once so they blister on both sides. Best spicy mayo recipe I like to do this in a toaster oven, but it will take longer than in a traditional oven –up to 15 minutes on each side. Spicy mayo recipe for sushi When done, place peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to cool. Spicy mayo sushi recipe If using jarred peppers instead of fresh, drain and dice 1/3 cup of peppers and set aside.

2. Spicy mayo recipe for chicken Mix cream cheese and mayonnaise in a medium bowl until smooth.

3. Spicy mayo recipe for fries Add cheddar cheese, green onions, cayenne pepper, Sriracha chili sauce, kosher salt and white pepper to mixture until thoroughly combined.

4. Recipe spicy mayo Scrape the blackened skin off roasted peppers, remove seeds and stem, then dice.

5. Spicy mayo for sushi recipe Add diced peppers to cheese mixture and gently stir to combine.

6. Spicy mayo sushi sauce recipe Serve at room temperature, accompanied by celery stalks or crackers, preferably Ritz. Sushi spicy mayo sauce recipe Pimento cheese may be refrigerated for several days but should be brought back to room temperature before serving.

Main photo: Pimento cheese is Southern junk food at its best — sweet and salty, with a kick. Asian spicy mayo recipe Credit: Copyright 2015 Susan Lutz

Zester Daily contributor Susan Lutz is a photographer, artist and television producer. Spicy sushi mayo recipe A native of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, she lives near Washington, D.C., where she is writing a book about heirloom foods and the American tradition of Sunday dinner. Spicy tuna mayo recipe She also blogs about the subject at Eat Sunday Dinner.

Hi Susie, your recipe sounds delicious. Bonchon spicy mayo recipe My family just had their family reunion here in the Shenandoah Valley and the food table would not be complete without pimento cheese sandwiches. Kfc spicy mayo recipe My Grandmother,too was the best pimento cheese maker, and now that she is no longer with us my two Aunts have mastered her recipe. Spicy mayo dip recipe After the reunion Mike and I were given a few of the sandwiches to take home so we went to my Father’s lot along Big Stone Creek in Edinburg for the evening and dined on cool drinks, fruit and you got, good ole pimento cheese sandwiches! Loved the article and it brought back great memories of my Grandmother…Hi to your family and keep the great articles coming! Love, Melissa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *