Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pimiento Cheese

Like most Southerners, I love Pimiento Cheese. It was not long ago, however, I discovered this beloved spread is exclusively Southern. I have known about other foods being considered Southern--grits, catfish, fried chicken, but Pimiento Cheese? I had always thought it was a staple in picnics everywhere, spread on sandwiches, used as a dip, stuffed into celery. I thought everyone had enjoyed Pimiento Cheese finger sandwiches at teas, socials, and luncheons. I also assumed everyone knew how to make this simple and delicious spread. I still don't know if you can buy those little jars of pimientos outside the south.

The more I talked with people about it, the more mystery I discovered in the "buy it pre-made at the market" group, the passions in the "make it from scratch" group, and the blank looks of the uninitiated. The questions range from, "You made Pimiento Cheese. . .how do you make it?" to "You don't add minced onion to yours?" to "What is Pimiento Cheese?"

There are many variations on this humble spread. Everyone seems agree with the three main ingredients; cheese, mayonnaise, and pimiento. Then differences kick in. All types of cheese can be considered. The texture is up for much debate. Some use a mixer or blender to achieve a completely smooth product. More mayonnaise or less? Cream cheese? Then there are add-ins, onion, Worcestershire sauce, olives, jalapeno peppers, the list goes on.

Although I will tamper with the ingredients, depending on what I have on hand, I remain, for the most part, a purist. I don't enjoy mayonnaise, so I use as little as possible, and include the pimiento juice, along with some mustard for extra moisture. I insist that for the best finished product, good quality, extra sharp cheddar cheese must be used, and must be hand grated. If you have the cheese at room temperature before grating, you can get a better idea of the final texture, rather than working with cold cheese. I mix by hand, minimally, because I like the chunky, homemade look. If you want your Pimiento Cheese fluffier or creamier, go right ahead, add more mayonnaise and mix it more vigorously, it will still be delicious.

Pimiento Cheese
16 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 oz. jar chopped pimiento, undrained
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1/4 c. to 1/2 c. good quality mayonnaise
Freshly ground black pepper or cayenne, to taste

Mix all ingredients together until desired consistency, starting with the lesser amount of mayonnaise.

Pimiento Cheese Sandwich with Lettuce and Sliced Red Onion

Pimiento Cheese is delicious melted over french fries! Try it on a grilled sandwich with bacon and tomato. How about for breakfast, smeared on a biscuit, hot from the oven . Also good on leftover cornbread. The list goes on and on. . .

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Pritchard Parker's Favorite Meal of the Year

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Betty Crocker's Potato Salad

I have made this potato salad many, many times, and people always love it. In fact, I am rather famous in my circles for "my" potato salad. I don't believe I have ever even told anyone where the recipe came from, so now the cat's out of the bag. I'm posting it here, exactly as it appears in my vintage 1969 Betty Crocker Cookbook.
2 pounds potatoes (about 6 medium)
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 hard-cooked eggs, cut up
Wash potatoes. Heat 1 inch salted water (1/2 teaspoon salt to 1 cup water) to boiling. Add unpared potatoes. Cover tightly; heat to boiling and cook 30 to 35 minutes or until tender. Drain; cool and peel. Cut potatoes into cubes; combine in bowl with onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; mix with Italian salad dressing. Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Just before serving, add mayonnaise; toss until potatoes are well coated. Stir in celery and eggs.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fickle Appetite

As winter transitions into spring, which can take a long time, here in the mountains, I find it challenging to plan menus. One day we want lighter, fresher foods, and the next chili. Only 3 days after I made an arranged salad for dinner, it snowed--6 inches! Three days ago, it never got above 20 degrees. Three days from now, it is supposed to be in the 70's.
Arranged Salad with Tahini Dressing
Using some cooked foods makes the salad seem heartier and more like a meal. For each person, arrange on a bed of washed and dried red leaf lettuce:
Simmered new potatoes
Thinly sliced red onions
Boiled egg slices
Tuna packed in olive oil
Yellow bell pepper strips
Tomato wedges
Steamed zucchini sticks
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tahini Dressing
1 Tbsp. tahini
1 tsp. ginger paste
1 garlic clove, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. tamari (soy) sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Stir together the tahini, ginger and garlic. Stir in the lemon juice, then tamari. Finally, slowly whisk in the olive oil. Pour into a small pretty dish and serve with your arrangement. Makes enough for 2 meal size servings.

Pot Roast

I make pot roast the same way my mother always did when I was growing up, and hanging out in the kitchen with her--braised in a heavy pot, on the stovetop. Her secret ingredient is coffee, which helps tenderize the meat, and make a dark, rich pan sauce. I prefer using a sirloin tip roast, but rump roast works, as well as chuck. Look for sales!

Mama's Pot Roast with Vegetables
1 approximately 4 pound roast
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. paprika
2 large onions, cut into chunks
3 stalks celery, cut into chunks
1 bay leaf
1 cup very strong coffee
4 medium potatoes, scrubbed, peeled if desired, cut into large chunks
3 carrots, peeled, cut into large pieces
salt and pepper to taste
Mix flour, salt, pepper, and paprika together on a plate. Dredge the roast very well on all sides. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, heavy pan, with a tight fitting lid, over medium-high heat. When very hot and almost smoking, carefully lower the roast into the pan. Be prepared for spattering. Cover the pan and sear the meat for several minutes, until dark brown, on both sides. Check the pan often, and be patient, this will probably take about 30 minutes. This process seals in the beef juices, and the crust formed adds tremendous depth of flavor. If you try to turn the meat too soon, it will be stuck to the pan. When it is completely seared, it will release easily.
Remove pan from heat and let it cool for a minute or two, before adding a cup of very strong coffee. Add onions, celery, and bay leaf. Add enough water to come about half way up the side of the meat, and bring to a steady simmer. Cover and cook for about 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is fork tender.
When the meat is tender, remove to a platter and cover with foil, to rest. Meanwhile, add the carrots and potatoes to the simmering liquid, adding salt and pepper to taste. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes, depending on size. Slice the roast and arrange the vegetables around it, on the platter. Serve the pan juice in a gravy boat.