Wednesday, July 27, 2011

pickled okra pimento cheese

do you know about pimento cheese? it's popular throughout the southern states and is perhaps making inroads across the mason-dixon line. in texas you can get it in big tubs at any grocery store. people usually eat it on white bread in sandwich form, though sometimes it's used as a dip for vegetables or crackers.

the thing about tub cheese is that it is tub cheese. thus, it is not all that good. i mean, it's good in the sense that anything composed of cheese and mayonnaise is going to be kind of good, but it isn't really good. also, pimento cheese is ridiculously easy to make and if you make it yourself you can avoid the preservatives and weird gums that fill many commercially-prepared versions.

seriously, have you ever looked at those? i just looked up the ingredients in one brand and it had guar, xanthan, and locust bean gums, along with preservatives and artificial coloring. i am not overly concerned about that kind of stuff (i eat gummy bears, after all), but it's just never going to taste as good as homemade.

the bare bones pimento cheese recipe consists of grated sharp cheddar, chopped pimentos, and mayonnaise. however, homemade is even better when you give pickled okra a leading role. when one is discussing pickled okra, talk o' texas is really the way to go. i don't know how widely distributed it is, but i bought mine here in oregon, so it's around. and you can order it online. as the website claims, it is crisp, delicious, and crisp. on a side note, my friend once dated the scion of the talk o' texas empire and i was excited about the prospect of increased pickled okra access, but alas, it was not to be. i still have to buy it like any old sucker.

anyway, other people's dating histories aside, okra is a nice addition to pimento cheese. in fact, i have been using it instead of the pimentos, because the day has yet to come when i go into the store and think of buying a whole thing of pimentos. pimentos just never seem to enter my consciousness while i am grocery shopping (and yet there's always pickled okra in the fridge). but i got a mad craving for pimento cheese the other day and found that pickled okra is a more than acceptable substitute.

i've made this a couple of times in the last fortnight or so, and each time it was a little different. so don't take this as a hard and fast rule-based recipe, but more like a template for whatever you have around. here are the things i used last time i made it:

in clockwise order, from the top left, we have mayonnaise, jarred roasted peppers, greek yogurt, pickled okra, scallions, and sharp cheddar. the greek yogurt is total heresy, but people do sometimes put sour cream in their pimento cheese, and i think it tastes similar and i can't bear to use only mayonnaise. but feel free to do the sour cream or all-mayo thing if you like. i used about 1/2 a cup of mayonnaise and 1/3 of a cup of yogurt for this batch, i think. but i never measure it - just use a large spoon to glop it in there, stir, taste, and adjust as needed. it's supposed to be pretty creamy, but you want to be able to really taste the cheese as well, obviously. lots of freshly ground black pepper is also a good idea, but i felt like it didn't need any extra salt.

i only had a couple of the roasted peppers - i think using twice the amount seen in the picture above would be even better. i also ended up adding another 2 or 3 okra pods after i mixed the cheese up and tasted it. see? it's kind of a guessing game. the scallions were delicious sliced into it, but you could also use shallots or a little sweet onion. or you could leave those out. i used about 6 ounces of grated sharp cheddar, but the other time i made this i used part sharp cheddar and part pepper jack, so that's pretty flexible as well. sometimes i grate it on the fine setting, sometimes on the larger holes. i think i prefer the larger, because the texture is a little more pleasing and you taste the cheese more. it's up to you, though.

as with so many things, this benefits from some time in the refrigerator before you eat it - try to give it at least an hour or so. it will last several days and maybe more. we always eat it before getting to test that, however. it's good on all kinds of bread (the top picture is with whole wheat bread and, incidentally, another sandwich featuring some truly amazing smoked salmon from the farmers market. the picture below this is with some cardamom toasts from ikea.), crackers, etc. you can also dip celery sticks in it and pretend it is super healthy.

or, as always, you can eat it straight from the bowl.

6 ounces cheese, grated (either sharp cheddar or a mix)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup greek yogurt or sour cream (or more mayonnaise to taste)
6+ chopped pickled okra pods
4+ sliced scallions (or substitute shallots, sweet onion, etc)
1/4 cup + jarred (or homemade!) roasted red/yellow bell peppers
black pepper

just mix it together!

also, sorry for the rather poor quality of these pictures - my camera doesn't like to photograph pimento cheese, apparently.

No comments:

Post a Comment