I have always loved pimento cheese, even that neon orange stuff you get at the grocery store. Which is funny, because for most of my life I have really hated mayonnaise. So while this Southern staple is nothing new to me and most people I know, it’s one of the “hot” items in Atlanta restaurants these days. I’ve had it out at restaurants twice in the past few weeks, and let me tell you: today’s pimento cheese is nothing like that goopy, mayonnaise-y stuff from my childhood.
For one thing, while we always ate it as a simple cold sandwich on white bread, both times I’ve eaten it lately it’s been served warm. First, as a grilled sandwich at Homegrown Georgia, and next as a burger topping at Yeah! Burger. (Thanks to my friend Katy for letting me taste. Do you ever place your order and immediately regret it? That’s how I felt about my choice of a grilled chicken sandwich. What was I thinking?) For another thing, the new wave pimento cheese is spicy, with “real” peppers, not those canned things. Incidentally, do you know that those pimentos are actually pureed peppers that have been mixed with guar gum and cut into strips? Seriously.
Put about 12 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese into a food processor and pulse until it’s cut into little chunks. Add one marinated red pepper. The jar I bought was 12 ounces and had two peppers, so this is about 6 ounces worth of pepper. Add two or three cloves of garlic, depending on your garlic threshold. I made our first batch with four cloves and while I like it, it was too much for the little one. She took a bite of what she thought was a regular grilled cheese and I can only describe the look on her face as pure horror. Add about half a cup of mayonnaise and process it all until it’s incorporated. My food processor isn’t big enough to hold all this so I chopped up the cheese, pepper and garlic separately then mixed it all together with the mayo in a bowl.
Use it for grilled cheese, a cold sandwich, cracker spread, burger topping or whatever else you can think of. Buon appetito.