The truth is I am not a regular consumer of pimento cheese. I do like it, for I’m addicted to peppers. But for me it has never become a daily habit.
Turns out, if I had grown up in the South, it could have been a daily staple. Perre Coleman Magness is a native Southerner who did grow up surrounded by pimento cheese. Today, Perre lives in Memphis and has her own event planning firm. Her time, though, she says is spent in the kitchen, relishing in food ideas, old and new, American and European. Along the way, a year ago, she wrote this lovely cookbook devoted to pimento in all its glory, refined by generations of Southern kitchens.
Never had pimentos? Sure you have. Ground up, it’s called paprika and one way or another we have all had paprika. I may not have followed the Southern pimento cheese tradition, but I grew up on paprika. You simply cannot make potato salad or fried chicken without a final garnishing dash of paprika.
The southern attachment to pimento cheese comes in large part from necessity. After the civil war, on through the Depression, poorer Southerners could afford this cheese and sandwiches with pimento cheese and mayo became a staple, made for family or made and sold to workers in the fabric mills.
The pimentos actually help preserve the cheddar cheese typically used to make pimento cheese. Oh, yes, you do make it. Well, you can make. Not just buy it in the store with the other packaged cheese. You can make you very own. That’s the big bang that Pimento Cheese begins with: a bevy of recipes for making pimento cheese in ways that you probably have never ever tasted:
Cream Cheese Pimento Cheese
Perre’s Own with Pecans and Hot Sauce
Standard pimento cheese is cheddar, pimentos, and mayo. In these recipe versions offered by Perre, different combinations of yellow and white cheddar appear. Spices and hot sauce and cream cheese may be applied. The mayo may be replaced by buttermilk. This is a package of recipes reflecting both heritage and imagination. The next pimento cheese I try will definitely NOT be store bought.
After those recipes for different routes to “pimento cheese” there are chapters for putting your creation to work. There are snacks, nibbles, dips, breakfast and brunch ideas, main dishes, and sides. No pimento desserts — Perre is serious about her food!
Here are some of the pimento ideas Perre offers for you enjoyment:
Vidalia-Pimento Cheese Hot Dip
Bacon-Pimento Cheese Truffles
Eggs Benedict with Pimento Hollandaise and Cheddar
Pimento Cheese Waffles with Pimento Syrup and Bacon
Creamy Pimento Soup with Grilled Pimento Cheese Croutons
Pimento Mac and Cheese
Pimento Cheese Chicken Pot Pie
Pimento Cheese Tomato Pie
Fried Green Tomatoes with Pimento Cheese Sauce
This is a fun, charming book. There are wild ideas here, well, wild if you did not grow up in the South and experience Tomato Pie made with mayo. And then there are the familiar ideas, like Chicken Pot Pie, that now receive pimento acceleration. With summer here, with picnics and barbeques and beach outings upon us, Pimento Cheese is filled with ideas to elevate your meals with just a dash of pepper and a flash of redness. You’ll find something here to fall in love with. Maybe even more than one.