Thursday, April 12, 2012

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Louis Osteen's Toasted Pimiento Cheese Sandwich

For years, I've had a personal vendetta against pimiento cheese. It started in second grade, when I was still faithfully eating a PB&J every day for lunch. My mom had a moment of premature senility, and swapped my sister's sandwich with mine. While my sister happily devoured my PB&J (at least that's how I imagined it), I tearfully suffered through pimiento-cheese hell. I swore to never touch the stuff again. 

     I recently stepped out on a limb, though, and (conservatively) smeared pimiento cheese on a cracker at a party. Just one cracker, for the sake of social graces. But then something strange happened. I found myself eating a second, and a third. The spread was shockingly addictive. 

       Naturally, I began probing my mother for answers. I'm normally quite loyal to her cooking, but this time, she led me astray. Turns out, she includes pickle juice in her pimiento cheese. And I despise pickles. In fact, I once had a showdown with my mother at Cracker Barrel over a plate-side pickle spear that had tainted my entire grilled cheese. (She cruelly withheld my Reese's Pieces until I ate the sandwich.) All of these years, I've been unknowingly deprived. Tragic, really. 

      In commemoration of my culinary breakthrough, I whipped up a batch of Chef Louis Osteen's (pickle-free) pimiento cheese, chilled it, and sandwiched it between two slices of toasted, thick-cut bread. (My now-mature taste buds warrant grown-up grilled cheese. None of that processed-cheese junk.) Osteen's pimiento cheese has the perfect balance of tanginess and sweetness, and its cold creaminess contrasts deliciously with warm toast. It's like the pickle-juice debacle never happened. 

Pimiento Cheese
From Louis Osteen's Charleston Cuisine: Recipes from a Lowcountry Chef 

What you need
6 cups freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp grated yellow onion
1 tsp ground red pepper
1 (7 oz) jar whole peeled pimiento, drained and cut into fourths
Freshly ground pepper

Makes about 4 cups. 

 Put it all together 
  1. Beat the Cheddar, cream cheese, mayonnaise, onion, and red pepper at medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes. The mixture should appear blended but not smooth.
  2. Add the chopped pimiento, and beat the mixture until the peppers are shredded. The spread should now be somewhat smooth. 
  3. Chill, and serve on warm toasted bread. Garnish with freshly ground pepper. 

    More chef-approved grilled-cheese ideas:

    Croque Monsieur
    Layer Virginia ham and Gruyere cheese on two slices of bread. Grill, then drizzle with Mornay sauce—a creamy sauce often made with Parmesan, Gruyere, or Swiss—both inside and out. 

    – Chris Jakibiec, The Jefferson, Washington, D.C.

    Croque Madame

    Sandwich black forest ham and Gruyere cheese between two slices of sourdough bread. Grill, and top with a fried egg.   
    – Silvan Kramer, CafĂ© Dupont at the Dupont Circle 
    Hotel Crawfish Grilled Cheese 
    Place Louisiana crawfish tails, Vermont White Cheddar, and smoked Gouda on two slices of multi-grain bread. Grill, and serve with a cup of tomato soup.  
    – Steven Marsella, Ralph Brennan's Heritage Grill 

    You might enjoy...

    National PB&J Day: Graham-Crusted Peanut Butter & Jelly French Toast

    Tomato-Vodka Soup with Kale Pesto


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