The origins of this Southern staple are shrouded in history, but just about every cookbook published south of the Mason-Dixon line seems to contain a recipe for it. And while every recipe contains grated cheese, mayonnaise and chopped pimiento pepper, no two pimiento cheese spreads are quite the same.
This one comes from Robert Stehling, the gonzo, gifted chef-owner of the Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina. Robert’s genius is in updating Southern classics by borrowing from other traditions or adding a tweak of his own. He gives his pimento cheese (and yes, that’s another way to spell it) a south-of-the-border touch with cumin and ancho chili powder, plus a splash of something iconic from his own region: bourbon.
Pimento cheese has been called both the “peanut butter” and the “pâté” of the South, which sums up well the spectrum of event styles at which the spread is enjoyed. It’s both an every-day and special-occasion food, as welcome slathered on plain white bread for a bedtime snack as it is dolloped atop elegant canapés at a cocktail party.
Naturally we recommend using Organic Valley cheddar in Robert’s recipe, but choose mild, medium or sharp as you like. You can enjoy the spread right after you make it, but it gains marked depth and deliciousness if you chill it for a few hours first. If you do chill it, bring the spread back to room temperature before serving time.
1. Combine the pimentos, mayonnaise, bourbon and seasonings in a large mixing bowl. Work the grated cheeses into the mix until thoroughly combined.
From Hominy Grill Recipes, by Robert Stehling.