Friday, September 2, 2011

Pimento Cheese Spread

Most of us true Southern girls grew up eating pimento cheese sandwiches on white bread. Mama cut off the crusts, spread the sandwiches, then cut them into "fingers" (getting 3 finger sandwiches from each) and served them at teas. These afternoon teas were usually in honor of brides-to-be and included open face cucumber sandwiches, chicken salad sandwiches, mints, toasted pecans and decorated cake squares served with punch. The ladies all wore white gloves. The gifts were sent out from the local jewelry store in advance and displayed for everyone to see. Mothers and daughters attended together and came and went between the appointed hours. And yes, the Help, washed the dishes in the kitchen during the tea!

This recipe is from Southern Living and is a favorite of my daughter, Kelley. Mama never used a recipe, but this one is as close to hers as you can come except for the addition of toasted pecans. (They were always left in halves, toasted in butter, salted and served in a silver bowl on the tea table.)

We're going to the beach and I'll make this recipe to take along with us. It's time Emmie learned about the finer things in life!

Pimento Cheese Spread

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (use good mayo like Duke’s – and no low fat stuff!!)
1 (4-oz.) jar diced pimento, drained
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon finely grated onion
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup chopped pecans (sometimes I include them, sometimes I don’t)
1 (8-oz.) block extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1 (8-oz.) block sharp Cheddar cheese

In a large bowl, stir together mayonnaise, diced pimento, Worcestershire sauce, grated onion, and ground red pepper until blended. ( I add a little garlic salt - about 1/4 teaspoon.)

Toast the pecans. Toasting brings out the rich flavor of the nuts. Preheat your oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. (Stirring helps to ensure even browning.)

Shred the cheese. Trust me--texture matters. ( I use my cuisinart to grate the extra sharp Cheddar. Then I use the blade to shred the cheese even more. It almost looks like cornmeal. Then I put the grater back on and grate the sharp Cheddar.) Freshly grated cheese really makes a difference! DO NOT use the pregrated packaged stuff - double yuck!

Add pecans and shredded cheeses to mayo mixture, stirring until blended. Store in the refrigerator up to 1 week. Serve with celery sticks and assorted crackers or make a grilled tomato and pimiento cheese sandwich - double yummm!

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