Pimento Cheese – It’s a Southern Thing

Pimento Cheese.  It’s a Southern thing.

Like so many recipes that have been around forever, there are many versions of this one.  And, maybe more importantly, often a heated debate about what the “real” version is and why anything other than that version is a blatant and offensive attempt at forgery.  I may even go as far as to say that some will cry “sacrilege!” when it’s made differently than their favored way.  All I know is that something as simple as cheese, mayonnaise and white bread can definitely be controversial.

Did you know that pimento cheese is one of the most popular sandwich offerings at golf’s Masters Tournament?  I didn’t either until I read it on the AttaGirlSays blog.

All I do know is that I make pimento cheese like my momma did.  Not that I actually called her momma, but the nomenclature seemed appropriate here given the Southernerness of this post.  I never heard Mom defend her recipe or declare it as the authentic Southern version.  It was just lunch to her.  And I’m here to tell you, nothing screams “wholesome lunch” quite like cheese and mayonnaise served on white bread.  If we were visiting our grandmother in Texas, chances are we’d get our pimento cheese sandwiches served with a side of Dr. Pepper.  Move over kale.  In our house, this is how we do lunch.

White BreadMaybe it’s my upbringing, but I can’t imagine eating pimento cheese on anything but white bread.  The last time I was in Texas, I ordered a pimento cheese sandwich at what might be the equivalent of a food truck without wheels, and it was served on thick, white “Texas toast” bread.  The bread was perfect but my sisters and I couldn’t help but notice that the pimento cheese spread was not as good as Mom’s.  Like I said, everyone has an opinion.

When I was just a young’un, I would help Mom make the pimento cheese sandwiches for lunch.  My job was to grate the cheese which, quite frankly, I never enjoyed much.  I think, because Mom would always point out that I was to use the fine grater to grate the cheese, I found it to be a chore.  And as a kid, I wasn’t all that fond of chores.  But Mom was right.  The consistency is just off if you don’t grate the cheese finely.

Until recently, it seemed that no one north of the South had ever heard of pimento cheese.  Then I started seeing it in upscale restaurants where the sandwiches were fancied up by adding things like bacon.  I’ve also seen it offered as a grilled sandwich.  I thought the changes were just plain wrong until I actually tried a grilled version and, by gum, it does make a great (albeit gooey and messy) toasted sandwich.  I’ve also seen something called “pimento cheese sandwich spread” in the grocery deli.  So it seems this little gem has been discovered.

Well, this is not one of those foods that you’ll find under “healthy alternatives.”  This is good ol’ comfort food.  And dang it is good.  But if you’re looking for a way to enjoy pimento cheese spread and pretend it’s a teensie bit healthy, it can be served on celery as an appetizer.

Happy Entertaining!

Grated Cheese  Pimento Cheese Ingredients

Pimento Cheese Spread

Pimento Cheese Sandwich

Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich

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Grilled Cuban Sandwich

I’ll take Entertaining Quandaries for $200.

Answer:  “Cuban Sandwich Sliders”

Question:  “What do you take to a dock party where you’re asked to bring your favorite international appetizer to share?”

I’d considered taking a tray of carrot sticks and dip with a sign that read, “Jamaican Carrot Sticks.”  But then thought maybe the Entertaining Couple should try a little harder.

Thanks to my man Tyler Florence, I had a good starting point on how to make these sandwiches.  The first challenge was that we don’t own a pressure cooker, and his recipe used one to prepare the pork roast.  So, instead we cooked the pork in our crockpot.  Historically, I’ve sort of avoided using the crockpot for any real cooking.  Which is sort of ironic given that we own two of them. But I figured if a pressure cooker was good enough for Tyler, then a crockpot had to be good enough for me.  (And please don’t send me letters.  I really do know there is a difference between the two.)  I adapted Mr. Florence’s recipe as I went, making adjustments for the crockpot versus the pressure cooker.  Before putting the roast in the crockpot, I seared the pork in a pan on the stove.  This not only locked in the juices but also allowed us to avoid a colorless cooked-in-a-crockpot-looking roast.  The pork was perfectly seasoned and tender after just a couple of hours, so we were well on our way to a Cuban sandwich.

Searing the Pork Roast

Pork in the Crock Pot

The sliders were good.  Not great.  And the only reason they weren’t great is because they were cold and a traditional Cuban sandwich really does need to be grilled.  So, we probably won’t do these sandwiches as sliders again (which means I’ll have a new quandary if asked to bring an international appetizer somewhere else).  But we will definitely be making these grilled Cuban sandwiches again.  These sandwiches are a great thing to serve when you have guests for lunch.  You can make the pork ahead of time and just assemble/grill the sandwiches when it’s time to eat. They are de-LISH-ous!  Jon ate a grilled Cuban sandwich for lunch several days in a row and commented on how much he enjoyed them each day.  (And the pork can be used to make other meals as well.)

Happy Entertaining!

Cubano Sandwich Ingredients

Ingredients for a Cuban sandwich

First Layers

First layers: mustard, Swiss cheese, dill pickles…

Adding the Ham and Pork

…then add ham and roasted pork, plus some salt and pepper

Ready for the Grill

Top with another piece of Swiss cheese

Grilling Under Heavy Skillet

Grill under the weight of a heavy skillet

Ready to Eat

Done to perfection!

Cuban Sandwich

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Egg Salad Sandwich: Sometimes Simple is Best

Sometimes simple is best.  And, for me, that’s how I feel about Egg Salad Sandwiches.  Three ingredients, plus a little salt and pepper, are all I need in my egg salad.  Which may be why I make them so often for lunch.  This sandwich only takes a few minutes to make, and most of that time is the time it takes to boil an egg.

We have a favorite deli in Colorado where Jon orders a Hell’s Kitchen sandwich.  It’s egg salad with a slice of crisp bacon and a splash of cajun hot sauce.  I’ve made this sandwich at home for him.  I just start with my perfectly simple egg salad and add a little meat and heat.  That’s the beauty of egg salad.  It can easily be dressed up or made simple to satisfy a variety of tastes.

I think the key to this recipe is to use good mayonnaise.  There are just some things where you shouldn’t show your frugal side.

If the thought of dicing eggs with a knife seems a bit cumbersome to you, you can do what I do and use the egg slicer.  After you do the initial slice, turn the egg a quarter turn,  slice again and you’ll have diced eggs.

Simple food.  Simple post.  Happy day.

Happy Entertaining!

First You Slice

First you slice…

Then You Dice

…then you dice!

Good Ingredients are the Key

Good ingredients are the key

Egg Salad Sandwich

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Making The Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

A friend asked me recently what my “signature dish” is.  That one stumped me.  I had never stopped to consider that I might have some food that I’m known for.

And, then it occurred to me.  I’m known for my grilled cheese sandwiches.  At least with the discerning “under 12” crowd.  And a few adults that love a good cheese sandwich.

Grilled Cheese Close-up

I don’t remember exactly when I honed my technique.  I do know that in college, and in the lean fiscal years after, I made all my grilled cheese sandwiches with Velveeta.  I’m happy to report that my taste in cheese has improved slightly over the years.  Now my cheddar cheese of choice is Tillamook (spoken like the Pacific Northwest girl that I am).

Over the years, I have gotten a lot of practice at making these sandwiches for kids of all ages.  I like to think that I’m personally responsible for saving several children from a life of complete malnutrition and starvation when their picky eating habits limited their choices.  And, I think I’ve also provided a cure to more than one hangover on weekends when the night-before-party often warranted a good grilled cheese sandwich the next day.

To say that mastering a perfect grilled cheese sandwich is easy is rather an understatement.  It’s really not difficult.  It just takes a little bit of know-how and patience.

Steps to the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich:

Select a good cheese.

Tillamook Cheese Slices

Slice the cheese thin, and then layer it a bit.  This will enable it to melt the way you want it.

Layering the Cheese

Butter the outside of the bread, on both sides.

Buttering the Bread

Cover the pan when you’re cooking the sandwich.

Grilling the Sandwich

Set the heat so it’s hot enough to toast the bread but low enough to slow cook the sandwich so the cheese gets perfectly melted and oozy.  On my stove that’s medium-low.  You’ll probably need to let the sandwich cook several minutes on each side.

On the Griddle

Ready to Eat

You can add a variety of ingredients to these sandwiches:  Ham, bacon, tomatoes, or tuna fish salad.  Whatever you like can easily be melted into this sandwich.  Because, as they say, variety is the spice of life.

Serve with a bowl of tomato soup and make it a meal.

Happy Entertaining (people of all ages!)

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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