Drunken Pimento Cheese (Bourbon Pimento Cheese)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

At one time, pimento cheese was one of those prototypical southern foods foreigners (i.e. anyone north of the Mason Dixon or west of the Mississippi) considered bizarre. It proudly shared that category with foods like chitlins, hog jaw, pork rinds, grits and hoppin' johns. When I was a kid, the only pimento cheese I was aware of was the congealed processed bright orange "spread" housed on the refrigerated grocery store aisle between the bologna and the bacon. I swear, that is the stuff foodie nightmares are made of.

Lucky for those of you who don't reside in "God's country", southern and low country cuisine went mainstream somewhere in the past decade. Southern influenced restaurants such as Seersucker and The Red Head started popping up in New York City (read in the tone from the old Pace Picante commercials) of all places, the Deep South's antithesis. Southern staples such as fried chicken and biscuits and shrimp and grits became all the rage. Who knows for sure what led to this food revolution - maybe people were seeking comfort in "comfort food", maybe it was an offshoot of the farm-to table movement - either way, I for one hope this trend is in it for the long haul.

As is common with food revivals, pimento cheese got a revamp. Gone are the days of purchasing the congealed mystery spread from the grocery store (thank the Lord). Pimento cheese has gone back to its roots.

Four foundational ingredients must be present in pimento cheese for it to qualify as pimento cheese: Duke's mayonnaise (in case you weren't aware, there is no other mayonnaise in the South), extra sharp cheddar cheese, and, of course, pimentos.

To that, you can add any number of enhancers - garlic, vinegar, mustard, variety of cheeses, Worcestershire sauce, etc.

My version, which I have appropriately named "Drunken Pimento Cheese", starts with fresh shredded sharp cheddar, Monterrey Jack and Havarti cheese. To spice it up a bit, I add in jalapeno pepper, garlic, roasted red pepper, and pimentos.

Next comes cream cheese, Duke's mayonnaise, and bourbon. Yep, that's right, bourbon. What southern recipe is complete without a nip of the good stuff?? And a justifiable reason to knock the dust off the decanters at 10 a.m. without feeling like a complete lush, sign me up.

Let's be honest though, there is no dust on my decanters.

Serve with crackers or crudites, as a condiment to a juicy burger, sandwiched between a couple fried green tomatoes, or on top of Filet Mignon if you're feeling fancy pants. Or with a shot of bourbon. I highly recommend the last one.

Drunken Pimento Cheese
Yield: makes about 2.5 lbs (for a party, reduce as necessary)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: None, just mixing
Total Time: 30 minutes


 16 oz sharp cheddar
8 oz Monterrey Jack
8 oz Havarti cheese
8 oz cream cheese (softened at room temp)
7 oz Pimentos
3 roasted red peppers diced
1 large jalapeno diced (you can remove seeds and membrane to reduce spice)
1/2 c. Dukes mayonnaise
1 tbsp garlic powder
Couple shakes of Worcestershire
5 oz bourbon

In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic powder, softened cream cheese, Worcestershire and bourbon. Mix well with a hand mixer (you could probably also use a blender or and immersion blender). In a larger bowl, combine rest of the ingredients. Pour in the cream cheese and mayonnaise combination and mix well with a soft spatula or a wooden spoon (I don't recommend a hand mixer for this part). Store in fridge.


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