If you’re a regular reader here, you know that my childhood self absolutely despised vegetables. But childhood Julie did enjoy eating fruits, French fries, most desserts, and several (though not all) varieties of CHEESE!! Especially cheddar – that was my favorite. I loved it just eaten straight from the block, I loved it sliced on crackers, I loved it in dips, and I loved it on burgers.
So it might surprise you to learn that I hated, I mean hated, pimento cheese. For those unfamiliar, pimento cheese is an American South staple that has meandered into parts of Texas, where it is enjoyed but not eaten as frequently as in, say South Carolina. It began its culinary lifespan as a sandwich: shredded cheddar was tossed with jarred pimentos (which are just chopped, roasted red bell peppers) and mayonnaise and then slapped between two slices of sandwich bread. That’s how my mom always made it for us. A quick lunch to throw together for sure, but man oh man I couldn’t stand it. Sorry Mom. :/
Why, you ask, when I was such a self-proclaimed cheddar lover? Simple – I hated mayonnaise. I always thought it was gloppy and unappealing. I still have some issues with it to this day. And the idea that you could take an ingredient as divine and hallowed as cheddar cheese and glop it up with the lowly and despised mayonnaise… well, that sincerely offended me to my core.
Pimento cheese has evolved from a sandwich to a spread, and is sometimes called cheddar cheese pate. In this more modern version, shredded cheddar is put in the food processor to spin around with mayonnaise and cream cheese, then pimentos are folded in. Then it gets spread on crackers, traditionally Ritz crackers, and eaten as a snack.
Despite my bad memories of pimento cheese, I decided to be brave and try it this way. Oh holy lord, I am so glad I did! It’s delicious, creamy, rich, and addicting. This is so making an appearance as an appetizer at a dinner party sometime! No matter what your history and experience of pimento cheese, whether that be as a spread, a sandwich, or nonexistent, I think you should definitely give this a try.
Source: adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt and Ted Lee
1 red bell pepper
8 oz. shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese
2 oz. softened cream cheese
3 tbs mayonnaise
1 tsp crushed chile flakes
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Ritz crackers, for serving
Using tongs, place the bell pepper over a medium to medium-low flame on your gas stove. Let it roast until all sides are blackened, turning as necessary. Alternately, you can do this in your broiler. Place the pepper on a baking sheet close to the flame and turn until it has blackened on all sides, about 10 minutes total.
When done roasting, place the pepper in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it steam for about 15 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and take the blackened skin off with your hands or a paper towel. Seed and chop the pepper.
Place the cheddar in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse a few times to really grate it fine. Then add the cream cheese, mayonnaise, chile flakes, salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and fold in the chopped red pepper.
Put the pimento cheese in your desired serving bowl and set out with the crackers. Use a knife to spread a generous amount of pimento cheese onto each cracker. Watch it disappear!