Orange is the New Crack

My Dad loved eating breakfast at a diner, and dinner at home, and he loved a small array of southern specialties. One of these was pimento cheese spread.

Unless your Dad was a chef you are probably like most of the rest of us. Food was Mom’s domain, though Dad did have his gastronomic moments.

MEAT_coverMy Dad made great chili con carne, and he took me out to any chili parlor within an hour or so’s drive from home. My Dad was also really talented when it came to grilling. His grilled meats would make other grill dudes go “Shit, this guy can really grill!”.

Tams (my father’s name, though most people called him Whit) was a creature of habit. He loved eating breakfast at a diner, and dinner at home, and he loved a small array of southern specialties. One of these was pimento cheese spread.

I remember vividly eating pimento cheese spread on crackers when I was a boy, and even though I was a finicky kid I didn’t at all mind the little red specks of pimento in my cheese spread.

For those of you not familiar with this wonderful concoction, check out the following nerdy article from the great Serious Eats website .

Pimento cheese spread was invented in New York, but you don´t see many Yankees putting this orange-ish, red-speckled delight on their crackers or celery sticks, or eating it as a dainty accompaniment to their apéritif. You sure as heck won´t find it on their burgers, even though the combination is eerily delicious.

Pimento cheese spread is a southern thing. Being invented in New York means nothing. Their not understanding the dish means the statute of limitations went out decades ago. And anyway, without that southern touch pimento cheese spread would be just another cheese spread.

The first time I ever made my own pimento cheese spread was about half an hour ago. This is simply because this product has always been readily available in stores in the south, and one of the staples I pick up when I´m back home.

Now I´m at the other home (in Norway) and I´ve been thinkng about pimento cheese spread for a while. A couple of weeks the “I´ve got to make this stuff” process began. I scanned the web for recipes and information. Next I created my own basic recipe and then tweaked it to semi-perfection. What pushed the spread over the edge of deliciousness was a little vinegar. Bam! You could probably get the same effect with lemon juice and since you´ll be making this stuff pretty often there will be plenty of opportunities to give lemon a try.

I can´t tell you how happy I am right now. It´s cold outside and more rain is on its way. Too bad, I´ve got enough pimento cheese spread to last the next few days so I´m good.

Salty crackers are a classic combination (today I´m using Ritz), also the 50s fave: celery sticks. Serve it as a dip with chips and crispy veggies such as radishes, carrots and snap peas. Make a sandwich with it and don´t miss out using on top of your next burger. You´re gonna love it.

Jump to Norwegian recipe

Pimento Cheese Spread (the teenage, New York version-f.z.)

If you are an American and you love pimento cheese spread you can pick up a tub at your local store. This recipe is better than pretty much anything at the store so you might want to give it a try.

  • 1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar
  • 8 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 2 ts shredded onion (I used a shallot and a Microplane)
  • 3/4 ts red wine vinegar
  • 4-5 shakes of Tabasco
  • a couple of pinches of salt
  • a little freshly-ground black pepper (I used a little more than “little” but you´ll figure it out)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons minced pimento

If you like garlic you might want to shred one garlic clove; better that than garlic powder.

Put all ingredients except for the pimento in the bowl for your electric mixer. Mix well. Add the pimentos and stir with a large spoon until you have an orange-y, cheesy spread. Let it rest for five minutes and taste the mixture in case you need a bit more salt and/or pepper or if necessary a few more drops of vinegar or hot sauce.

Put the cheese spread in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. OK, I´m lying a bit here. I had at least 2-3 “taste tests” before putting the bowl in the fridge, but that is the cook´s privilege. That said, it is worth waiting that extra half hour so that all the flavors can properly meld. In the meantime find a good (or for that matter bad) film and dig in!

 Og nå på norsk:

Pimento Cheese Spread

  • 1 pk Philadelphia-ost, romtemperert
  • 5 dl revet cheddar, helst en med mye smak (jeg brukte en engelsk farmhouse cheddar)
  • 8 ss majones
  • 2 ts revet løk (jeg brukte sjalottløk og rev den med en Microplane)
  • 3/4 ts rødvinseddik
  • 4-5 skvett med Tabasco
  • 2 toppede ss finhakket pimento (grillet paprika; finnes i velassorterte matbutikker)
  • et par klyper salt
  • litt kvernet sort pepper (jeg brukte litt mer enn “litt”, men du får se)

Det er veldig vanlig og bruke litt hvitløk i pimento cheese spread og det skal jeg prøve neste gang. I sørstatene hadde de fleste brukt hvitløkpulver; jeg vil foretrekke å finrive et fedd med vanlig hvitløk.

Bland sammen alle ingredienser utenom pimento i bollen til din elektrisk mikser (KitchenAid er mitt utvalgte våpen). Bland godt sammen. Rør i finhakket pimento med en sleiv, og la blandingen stå i noen minutter før du smake den til med ev litt mer salt og/eller pepper, og gjerne bittelitt mer eddik eller tabasco hvis den trenger det.

Ha pimento cheese spread i en liten bolle, dekk over med plastfilm og la den stå i kjøleskapet i minst 30 minutter før servering. OK, jeg lyver litt. Jeg spiste i hvert fall 3-4 småskjeer med den før jeg satt den på kjøl, og regn med at du gjør det samme. Det er verdt å få med den siste halvtimen slik at smakene får tid til å jobbe godt sammen. Da er det bare å finne en god (eller dårlig) film og nyt!


2 thoughts on “Orange is the New Crack”

  1. Well you hit the nail on the head with this one, Craig. I remember our conversation about this last summer, but have not tried to make the stuff myself. Now I will–you can betcha.

    Good memories about you dad, too. Didn’t know that he was a grill king himself, but I really liked him for lots of other things.

    Hello to Helle–hope all is well with you guys.

    1. Kathy: My Dad loved making chili and he loved grilling, primarily steaks and burgers. You have to try the recipe. Those Emersons will love it. Hugs to all!

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