This is a combination of two of my all time favorite sandwiches – pimento cheese topped with a BLT and served open-faced. Mention pimento cheese to me and my mind is immediately transported back to the south where I grew up. There was always a jar of rich, yellow cheese combined with my mother’s homemade mayonnaise and studded with bits of red pimento in our refrigerator.
As soon as I was old enough to grate cheese, making pimento cheese became my job. It was one of the few things I was allowed to do in my mother’s kitchen as a child. With only three ingredients, there was no need for a written recipe. I grated the cheese on a box grater and added drained chopped pimentos (no need for a knife if you use the pre-chopped ones in the jar) and added just enough of her homemade mayonnaise to bind the cheese and the pimentos together. As I look back, this was a great way to teach kids how to use a box grater.
As with any recipe that relies on only a few ingredients, the quality of the ingredients is very important. The foundation of a good pimento cheese starts with good homemade mayonnaise. I like to make mine in the food processor. Here’s a link to a recent post about how to make mayonnaise the easy way in the food processor. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own mayonnaise, cooks throughout the south rely on Hellman’s or Dukes. No Miracle Whip here – it’s too sweet.
A good aged American cheddar is also essential. My favorites are New York and Vermont cheddar. No matter what kind of aged cheddar you use, it is essential that the cheese be freshly grated. Grating the cheese, either by using a hand or box grater, or in the food processor, makes all the difference in the world in the end result. Not only does freshly grated cheese taste a thousand times better than the pre-grated stuff found in packages in the supermarket, it also binds much more easily with the mayonnaise.
Pimentos are the third ingredient and here’s where I differ from the original. Even as a child, I thought pimentos never had much flavor, so I’ve substituted chopped bottled roasted red peppers for the pimentos. Sometimes I also like my pimento cheese on the spicy side, so I throw in some finely chopped fresh jalapenos and if it’s not hot enough, a dash or two of Tabasco sauce does the trick.
The sandwich is served open-faced with the pimento cheese spread on a toasted slice of good country bread (I used a sourdough boule) as a base, topped with crispy fried bacon and thinly sliced ripe tomatoes, seasoned with lots of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, then garnished with baby arugula. When you’re craving comfort food, this is the perfect sandwich.
My inspiration for this sandwich came from this recipe in Cooking Light if you want to refer to it for specific amounts of ingredients. However, I did not use their pimento cheese recipe. I made my own, eyeballing the ingredients as I did as a child. Start with freshly grated cheddar cheese (I used both a yellow and a white cheddar), then add some chopped roasted red peppers or pimentos (patted dry with a paper towel), stir well, then add just enough mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together so they will spread easily. If you like your pimento cheese spicy, add some fresh seeded and chopped jalapenos and a dash or two of Tabasco. If not using right away, it will last, covered, for several days in most people’s refrigerator. Since childhood I’ve been addicted to pimento cheese and confess one of my favorite ways to eat it is on Ritz crackers, so it doesn’t stand a chance of lasting long at our house.
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