North Carolina author Reynolds Price once wrote about pimento cheese: “…it was the peanut butter of my childhood–homemade by mother…I’ve been caught eating a pound in two days (though it keeps well), especially if life is hard.” We definitely had peanut butter in our house growing up, and still do, but pimento cheese (we call it PUHMINNA cheese) was and is my “stand at the sink” sandwich of choice. I can eat it as an appetizer, on top of my burgers, in between two slices of white bread, and lately as my favorite version with bacon and tomato (if it’s summer) on whole wheat as pictured above.
I have to admit that I didn’t try making homemade pimento cheese (aka “Southern Pate” or “Carolina Caviar”) until a few years ago after having the appetizer at Magnolias, my favorite restaurant in Charleston, SC. I bought the cookbook published in 2006 called Magnolias: Authentic Southern Cuisine with recipes from chef Donald Barickman, which includes his recipe for homemade Pimento Cheese. What really makes this recipe so delicious is that it calls for roasting your own red peppers in the oven and peeling, seeding, and chopping them to add to the cheese mixture. The directions for this are not difficult at all, and I think it makes all the difference. I don’t add the olives to it, however, since I would be the only one eating it if I did. You can also add jalapeno pepper or hot sauce if you like it spicy.
And if you are in Charleston, be sure to visit Magnolias and try anything!
from Magnolias: authentic Southern cuisine
Makes 2 1/2 cups
- 5 large roasted red peppers, peeled, seeded, and chopped (see below), or 2 1/2 cups jarred diced red pimentos
- 1 cup finely chopped stuffed green olives
- 1 1/4 pounds New York or Vermont sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- dash cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well. Season to taste with cayenne pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
To Roast Peppers
Thin peppers will have a shorter roasting time. It’s preferable to use fresh peppers that look very healthy and have a good thick flesh.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Wash, drain, and dry the peppers. Rub the peppers with olive oil, just to coat them lightly. Place the peppers on a baking sheet and roast them on the top shelf of the oven for about 25 minutes, turning once or twice. The skin should be well blistered and blackened in some places.
Remove the peppers from the oven. Place them in a small bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the peppers cool for 10 to 15 minutes. The skin will become loose and very easy to remove.
Peel the skin off of the peppers. Remove the stems, cores, and seeds. Do not rinse. At this point you may use the peppers in any manner that you would use jarred pimentos.