Friday, February 02, 2007

Classic pimento cheese recipe

"I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults."—Molly Ivins

We’re all consenting adults here. And while I dearly love Texas, I’m not a big fan of football and will probably forgo celebrating the big event this weekend known as Super Bowl Sunday. I know, I know, all Texans are supposed to love football but somehow I was born without the game-loving gene. Sure, when I lived in Texas, I never missed a Super Bowl party. These would be an all-day affair, filled with lots of food and good cheer. You'd show up around noon and stay until the final touchdown. There'd usually be a TV in every room (bathroom included) and some people even hooked up sets outside in the yard. Of course, there were huge amounts of food, and, well, it never really mattered who was in the game, what was really important was just how many good eats you could consume. (Though if the Cowboys were playing the mood was a lot more tense as the game actually mattered.)

After Thanksgiving, I reckon that Super Bowl Sunday is the top day on a Texan's food calendar. On the the table, you'll find queso, chili, seven-layer dip, sausage, brisket, Texas caviar, and my favorite, pimento cheese. Technically, pimento cheese should be called pimiento cheese, since it's made with pimiento peppers. But somewhere along the way, Texans, known for malapropisms and creative spellings, (heck, the name of the state is even a refashioning of a Caddoan word, Tejas, which means friends) took out the extra "i" and decided to call it pimento. It certainly rolls off the tongue a lot easier that way. And if you're not familiar with the dish, it's a spread made up of shredded cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pimiento peppers and spices. You can spread it on sandwiches, use it for a chip dip and best of all, stuff it in celery sticks.

I can't imagine a time in my life when I didn't have a tub of the stuff sitting in my refrigerator. After I graduated from peanut butter and banana sandwiches for lunch as a child, I started making for myself the tres sophisticated pimento cheese, pickles and turkey sandwich on a daily basis. But it's also good to just eat straight out of the container with a spoon.

In Texas, you can find it at any grocery, with some places such as HEB's Central Market having a big tray of it on its impressive condiment bar (and I'd show you a photo of this glorious display of pimento cheesiness, but I the last time I was there, I was kicked out of the store when the manager caught me trying to take a photo of it). When I moved to New York, you couldn't find the stuff anywhere. But no matter, as I learned right away, this is a very simple thing to make. And homemade tastes better than store bought any day.

Not surprisingly, the same qualities that make it a great celebration food—its softness, its tastiness, its lack of challenge and its ability to sit out on a buffet for hours without refrigeration—also make it a popular funeral food. I don’t mean to sound ghoulish, but death is a fact of life. And my mom, who’s an Episcopalian priest, has had many experiences with Texas funeral services and confirms that at every one she officiates at, there is always pimento cheese.

Of course, the best funerals are always an opportunity to honor the life, rather than grieve the death. And speaking of celebrating a life, we lost a great woman this week, the feisty columnist Molly Ivins.

No matter if you sided with her views or not, everyone can agree that Ivins was one of Texas' great wits. She could charm anyone with her boisterous laugh and a wide-as-West-Texas smile. But beyond being humorous and larger than life, she was a champion of the powerless, striving to make the world a better place. Fortunately, she served up her political beliefs with a sprinkling of homespun Texan witticisms, enlivening her serious crusade with both color and joy.

I was terribly sad when I heard she’d died, she was only 62; she was too young. And I have friends who were close, dear friends of hers—my heart goes out to them and their loss. But thankfully, her spirit will live on forever through her books and her columns. So, I serve up this bowl of pimento cheese for you, Molly. I know you favored the phrase “hard cheese” to refer to apparent truths and pimento cheese is probably too soft and tame for you. But at least it’s both celebratory and comforting. Say hello to Ann Richards for us. I have an image in my mind of the two of you hanging out on some Heavenly front porch, trading bon mots and skewering the political ridiculousness that we’re still subjected to here on Earth. And perhaps, y’all are eating, among other great dishes, pimento cheese.

Pimento cheese
Ingredients;
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 4-ounce jar pimentos, drained and diced
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon of cayenne powder

Method:
Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Chill for a few hours.
Serve with crackers, tortillas chips, bread or celery sticks.

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53 comments:

Slice said...

I don't know how you managed to connect the Super Bowl, pimento cheese, and Molly Ivins's death in a way that makes sense, but kudos. Nice photo with a welcome recipe!

Susan said...

Though I have no ties to Texas, I was an ardent fan of Ivins's writing. She had the unique ability to edify her readers and to cause them to laugh out loud with her saucy prose. Thanks for this great post.

Shawnda said...

Wonderful post!

I'm a closet pimento cheese fan - have been for as long as I can remember. I've never eaten it from anything but a prepackaged tub. This, however, sounds really easy. I'm definitely going to have to put it on the must-try-soon list!

Debbie B. said...

Pimento cheese on Raisen Bread at Joseph's in Tyler Texas - Mmmmmm!
From Molly Ivens "I believe politics is the finest form of entertainment in the state of Texas: better than the zoo, better than the circus, rougher than football, and even more aesthetically satisfying than baseball."
And alsofrom Molly "Now GO.GET.THE.DAMN.MAMMOGRAM."

Patty said...

Excellent recipe for the Super Bowl. Any excuse to mix cheddar cheese and mayo is all right by me. This month's Food & Wine has a recipe for Pimento Cheese that's a little different but I think I like your version with the garlic better. Also, recently came back from my first trip to Texas (San Antonio and that area) and fell in love with all the food there, especially the refried beans and barbecue that I recently wrote about. Tex-Mex is a new favorite with me and so I was glad to read Simply Recipes and to see your blog in her spotlighted food blogs. You're now one of my favorites. Thanks.

Yvo said...

There are two reasons for me to throw/attend a Super Bowl party: 1- the commercials and 2- far more importantly, the food. Oh, the food! It's yet another reason for gluttons as myself to chow down. Mmm. And now that I've graduated from Doritos in a bowl,.... mmm. I want to make this but I swore... well, I'm not throwing the party, BF is and I'm on strike from cooking/making food for parties (partially his request, partially my demand). Ah well... I will try this.... yum yum!

matt said...

Molly Ivins was my sister's neighbor for many years, always imparting wit and texas charm, even when passing her down the street. She will be missed tremendously.

Looks like I'll be making a batch of this on Saturday - thank you for the posting! You know us Texans and our cheese :)

Anonymous said...

I found your blog just this week and am thoroughly enjoying it. What with Super Bowl, Mardi Gras Galveston, and the Houston Livestock Show/cook-off all this month, I needed a good comfort food to feed the masses. I'm sure you won't mind if I add a finely chop jalapenio or two!

Thanks for the rememberance of Ms. Ivins. She kept many of us sane in an insane political state/world. I too invision Molly and Ann whooping it up in heaven and keeping an eye on us.

Keep up the great blog!

Texann (that really is my name!)

Homesick Texan said...

Slice--Thanks! My mom gave me the segue when she mentioned pimento cheese is always at funerals.

Susan--I don't think you had to be Texan to appreciate the brilliance of her writing.

Shawnda--It's so easy, and tastes so much better than Prices. Plus you can spice it up anyway you wish.

Debbie-Great quotes! I don't think I've ever had it on raisin bread. It sounds a bit odd, but I'll take your word for it and give it a try.

Patty--I can't wait to read your thoughts on Texas food. And yes, mayo and cheese together is always great with me!

Yvo--It's all about the food!

Matt--I bet she was a fun neighbor--I hear her parties were legendary. She will be missed tremendously indeed.

Texann--What a terrific name! Wow, I'd forgotten how much happens in Texas during Feb. I'll try to keep up!

Mass Ave Eats said...

Oh, that spelling difference confused the heck out of me when I first encountered "pimiento.": "But they've spelled it wrong!"

Anonymous said...

Heaven's front porch will never be the same now that Molly has joined Ann Richards, Lewis Grizzard (not a Texan, but 'of the tribe'), and a few otherwise-minded souls. Thank you for a lovely piece of writing that makes a Texan who has returned to Texas after a 20-plus year absence homesick and at home all at the same time.

Francesca said...

Just wanting to let you know... that it is SO HARD to find Tex-Mex food that is anywhere near good! Unless I am making it here.. I will def be coming back here (I am a Texan out of place, myself), and I will definitely be making sopapillas soon... those look divine!! Thank you!

melissa mcgee said...

what a sweet tribute to molly ivins. when i read of her death, my first thought was of ann richards... i'll bet they're gossiping at this very moment.

nothing beats a batch of homemade pimento cheese - and you're correct - it's best right off of the spoon. in my life, i've never been a big celery eater, and have routinely referred to celery as "pimento cheese holder". that cracks my mom up so much she calls it that now, too.

on the superbowl - you're not alone in having been born without the football gene. i don't have it either, much to the chagrin of most of my friends. i am proud to say i've never ONCE in nearly 36 years been to a superbowl party, and this year will be no exception.

Lydia said...

So sad to lose Molly Ivins this week. I might not normally make pimiento cheese, but it seems like a great way to celebrate the joy that was Molly. Thanks for saluting a wonderful writer.

nika said...

Beautiful piece! My grandma (The one that adores Luby's) loves this.. tho she was not born/bred Texan .. she is from Illinois where I guess they eat this stuff too.

I was so sad to hear about Ivins.. a great light has gone out of this world. Karmically speaking, with the loss of Richards and Ivins.. the Texan balance is tipping too far over now to Bush and Rove (tho Bush is just not Texan.. Rove is a texan roach.. he doesnt even rate a capital T) Oh dont get me started.

I will see if I can whip some of this up this week and lift a toast point to the noble truth and goodness of the sweethearted and decent Texans I have known.

adam said...

Kudos to you for making real pimento cheese and not using that slop in a tub from the store.

Homesick Texan said...

Mass Ave Eats--I know! I thought the same thing!

Anon--Ah yes, Lewis Grizzard, another great! Thank you!

Francesca--Where do you live? Hope you enjoy the sopapillas!

Melissa--"Pimento cheese holder," I love it! And I'm glad I'm not the only Texan who doesn't love football. Though Super Bowl parties are great for eating.

Lyida--Thank you, she was a true joy.

Nika--Thank you! But did you know that Rove is from Colorado? So he's not a Texan either.

Adam--Homemade tastes sooooo much better than the packaged stuff. Much brighter and spicier.

shauna said...

I received the first of my emails from your site today and to start off with pimento cheese...oh, lucky day!
Every summer my family would travel to South Padre Island from Houston, to sustain us we on the long journey we would eat heaps of pimento cheese dug out with Fritos and swallowed down with Big Red. How delicious does that sound? Pimento cheese is hearty enough for a Super Bowl party yet classy enough for my sorority rush parties (on crustless white bread triangles, of course!) You need to try the Whole Foods version with smoked cheese and jalapenos, pure cheesy heaven!

christine (myplateoryours) said...

And those of us who did side with her views lost a valuable and much needed spokesperson. Check out Krugman's last column in the Times. God bless, Molly, and good bye.

P.S. How did I live so long without Pimento Cheese? It's got my name written all over it. And I DO have to watch the game tomorrow (Go, Colts, she said, obligatorily.)

Ivonne said...

Once again you have introduced me to something that I'd never heard of before. I love Texas!

Shawnda said...

I made this tonight and oh my goodness! I've never tasted pimento cheese this good. Thanks so for sharing this recipe! It's well on its way to becoming a house favorite.

nika said...

holy cr@p i didnt know that Rove was from Colorado (must be the uranium tailings *wink*) .. i had seen this frontline or something like that once and i got the impression he was Texan. (hope this isnt a duplicate)

sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said...

It is a southern thing, pimento cheese is second only to deviled eggs as #1 funeral food.
Politics aside~ I always loved Ann Richards. Another great southern woman!

Anonymous said...

I made Ninfa's green sauce for the party today. My goodness! It is pure heaven on a chip! I've never used tomatillos so it was an adventure in cooking. I sent the recipe to my 20-something yr old niece, who like me, cooks things for the first time and presents it to a house full of folks. She called to say the game hasn't started and it's almost gone! Thanks for helping me bridge the miles between my family and me with wonderful Texas food offerings.

Any plans on showcasing Texas gulf seafood recipes? I've got a recipe for Hillman's crab cakes if you're interested.

Your new best friend, Texann

Homesick Texan said...

Shauna--That's what I most love about pimento cheese, how it transcends so many barriers--high and low. The Whole Foods version sounds excellent, but for some reason they don't sell it at WF in NYC. I'll need to talk to the manager about that!

Christine--Yes, a much-needed voice was lost. So sad. I can't imagine going through a presidential race without her observations, commentary and wit. And how have you never had pimento cheese? I didn't realize it was that regional.

Ivonne--Wonderful--I'm so pleased I've helped a Canadian love Texas--that's an accomplishment!

Shawnda--Very cool! I'm so glad you tried it! And yes, you'll never go back to the tub again.

Nika--Yep, born in Colorado and grew up in Utah, I think.

Sandi--Oh yes, deviled eggs are another great comfort food. I actually had quite a few when I was in Alabama last summer. Y'all sure do love your deviled eggs down there!

Texann--Yea! I'm so happy the recipe was a hit! I'm not surprised it went so fast. And yes, I'd love your crab cake recipe. Growing up in Houston I consider myself a bit of a Gulf girl.

wheresmymind said...

Oh man...sounds like being in Texas for a superbowl partay is like food Mecca! *drool* :D

veron said...

Nice! Love cheese pimiento. I was crazy about it growing up and still love it for its great cheesy spicy flavor! I have never had it with celery though...

Leslie said...

I love piminto cheese and just don't eat it often enough. I have a question about your oyster cracker recipe. It calls for "1 pkg. ranch dressing, original (do not use low fat!)" is that ranch dressing mix or a bottle of ranch dressing?

Julie said...

Great, great post, and wonderful photograph.

Molly Ivins will be much missed.

If you didn't see it, the day after her death The Newshour rebroadcast an essay of hers from 1986 about art in Texas -- or as Molly pronounces it, "ort" -- an appreciation for the colorful and absurd in Texas. Well worth watching.
link

And I love your image of Ann Richards and Molly Ivins together on some heavenly porch. How perfect.

dawn said...

a friend of mine passed your bloglink to me...and it is beyond wonderful. we are in the process of moving back to the ny area (sadly, not back to brooklyn) and your photos & writings have me already missing texas.

thank you for such eye candy.

signed,
a girl in san antone

Homesick Texan said...

Wheresmymind--It is indeed food mecca! (Which is fortunate if you're not that into football!)

Veron--Wow! That's unbelievable you've never had it with celery because that's such the standard in Texas. As Melissa noted, she calls celery a "pimento cheese holder." You should try the two together, they complement each other nicely.

Leslie--It's a dry package of Ranch dressing mix, not the bottled stuff. Hope that clarifies things!

Julie--Muchas gracias! And thanks for the link, I'd never seen it before but it's priceless (And Jim Lehrer is a Texan, too!). I love the Jesus statue in cowboy boots and her tale of the tuna-fish Jesus with pimento stigmata. I'm going to miss her.

Dawn--Welcome back to NYC! It ain't San Antone, but it's not so bad.

Toni said...

Thanks for taking pimento cheese out of the jar for me! And thanks, too, for the great image of Molly Ivans and Ann Richards just a-settin' on that porch t'gether! I'm so glad I've lived in the same era as those 2 incredible women. As a homesick New Mexican now living in southern California, I can relate to your nostalgia for the food and great people of "home".

Hannah said...

Oh, how I love pimento cheese, either on a Triscuit or in a sandwich- and now it will always make me think of Molly Ivins.

Although in her memory I will make my party version- pimento cheese with Ro-Tel (is extra Texan and has extra kick!). Somehow that seems apropos.

CarlitoWoodyWay said...

Cheers to Molly! I'll miss her wicked sense of humor. And you know she and Ann are giving the good Lord a run for his money in heaven!

Love the blog. I too am a homesick Texan. I live in Chicago (been 11 years)...wish I was sitting at Town Lake today rather than in the snow and negative temps.

hshamby said...

i love pimento cheese - especially on celery. next time you make it, try adding freshly chopped pecans to the mix. (i just put them in a ziplock and pound with the bottom of a skillet a couple times.) they add rich nutty sweetness and a bit of crunch to the mix. kind of like a cheese ball in the form of spread. delicious!

hshamby said...

i love pimento cheese - especially on celery. next time you make it, try adding freshly chopped pecans to the mix. (i just put them in a ziplock and pound with the bottom of a skillet a couple times.) they add rich nutty sweetness and a bit of crunch to the mix. kind of like a cheese ball in the form of spread. delicious!

Cloy Richards said...

you have to add fresh jalapeno's to pimento cheese, even with a dash of cayenne

Lisa said...

I loved Molly Ivins, too. What a great loss; your tribute is wonderful.

A friend from South Carolina told me about "pahmenna" cheese recently and I've been on a mad quest to find the perfect recipe and try it. She is bringing me some Duke's mayo from her home state just for the occasion—apparently many Southerners swear by Duke's. I do believe I will try your recipe! Thanks.

Homesick Houstonian said...

Gross. Gross. Gross.

Try the pimento cheese in the Whole Foods in Houston; I didn't like pimento cheese until I tasted that.

I hate the mouthfeel and rubbery-ness in processed cheese.

Homseick Houstonian said...

by the way i'm referring to storebought as gross..not your recipe. ;)

Whoel foods was my epiphany that pimento cheese needs to be home made.

They have regular as well as the jalapeno someone mentioned, and even gouda. Maybe i can sweet talk someone in specialty to send me the recipe. Getting someone to make at Whole Foods in NYC will be a lost cause.

Quique said...

I'm not a big fan of the WFM generally, but they did put out some fine pimento cheese from Alabama and Shepherd. As best I recollect, it had:

A sharp cheddar cheese
A mellow white cheddar cheese
Mayonaise
Purple Onion
JalapeƱo
Dill

all in proportions to taste. I made more than a few meals off of this pimento cheese, fresh sourdough bread from George Ekrich's Sourdough Bakery, El Galindo chips and Pace Picante.

Texas John in Tennessee said...

Love your recipe, Homesick Texan. May I also suggest:

3/4 teaspoon Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
8 drops Tabasco Pepper Sauce
3 grinds, McCormick Black Peppercorn Grinder

Jeanie said...

Texas Jeanie in Los Angeles......do you think these people know jalapeno pimento chese spread? I just returned to LA after being in Texas fr a funeral. We ate tons of Price's jalapeno pimento cheese spread. I am now back in LA and jonesing for more. Thanks for the blog filled with goodies. You know Texas is not a state....it is a state of mind.

Anonymous said...

Homesick Texan, your recipe gets my Southern stamp of approval! Do you know what my pimento cheese "secret weapon" is? Mario Pimientos (I buy the diced). I believe they’re the tenderest and most flavorful pimentos on the market. Also, the juice is so rich, I don't even drain them. I won't make a batch without Mario. It really transformed my recipe. -- Pimento Cheese-Obsessed Southerner

Jess said...

Here's another pimento cheese recipe. Nobody has said it's bad, and a lot of people have said it's very good. In the part of the world I'm from (MS, KY, AL, TN) it's usually called "minner" or "pah-minner"cheese.

12 oz finely shredded SHARP cheddar chees
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz mayo (or to taste)
2 Tbs finely minced roast garlic (or to taste)
4 oz pimentos OR flame roasted red peppers (or to taste)
cayenne and/or season salt to taste
Optional: minced green olives and/or jalapenos
In mixer, combine cream cheese and mayo add remaining ingredients
Eat with crackers, bread, celery, with a spoon, in ham sandwiches, etc.

Anonymous said...

This is my first visit to your site and I am really enjoying reading the recipes. I do love homemade pimento cheese, especially a grilled pimento cheese sandwich. There used to be a drive-in restaurant in Clover, SC, that sold these and they were so delicious. I grill mine in olive oil (butter is fine also) because it makes the bread really crispy. I also like to add Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning to the pimento cheese - it gives it a nice kick. Thanks again for the wonderful recipes. I'm trying the jalapeno cheese bread tomorrow. Also, although I'm not from Texas that is where my heart is and most of my friends that are from Port Lavaca and Victoria.

Anonymous said...

Made this for the second time. My two cents, and I am not a Texan, so feel free to string me up, but--using a Cuisinart and adding a bit of extra mayo gives you an amazing, smooth, even-textured result. And I added more cayenne, too, and the heat is welcome. Love the blog. Thank you, HT!

Penny said...

Stumbled on this old post...thought I'd throw in my mom's easy peasy PC.

Ingredients

1 2cup bag finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese, at room temperature.

1 4 oz jar diced pimentos

1 heaping serving spoon of Duke's mayo. (Duke's, only Duke's--almost like homemade.) Be careful not to put too much or it gets "sloppy".

1 quick shake Lawry's garlic salt. (small amount....very small.)

Black pepper, shaken over so much that the top of the pile appears black. (sorry, no amount..I've never measured it. Just LOTS of black pepper, out of a can, don't worry about grinding it.)

Mix together and let "marry" overnight. It should be sort of "stiff"...not all creamified.

Most tasters declare it "the best they've ever had." The secret is the amount of black pepper and the Duke's mayo.

Anonymous said...

try making a grilled cheese out of pimento cheese - it is wonderful and highly addictive.

Lost Texan said...

Grilled ham and homemade pimento cheese sandwich, brushed with garlic butter. Toasty, melty, gooey goodness

Anonymous said...

Its not easy to find pimento cheese in Wisconsin either, and they look at you in horror and ask if its that neon orange stuff. I can kind of understand that being that Wisconsin is like the motherland of cheese variety in the US, but having grown up in Texas with southern parents I have a fondness for good old pimento cheese that I can't shake. The recipes here sound good, though I'd have to leave out the garlic, but can anyone tell me how you get that touch of sweetness that you get from the store bought pimento cheese?

I'm so happy to have found your site!
Lana...a Texan adopted by Wisconsin

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Lana--Mayonnaise add the sweetness.

Anonymous said...

I am also a lifelong non-football Texan!

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