This here be anything but a recipe blog.
A few weeks back, TG and Erica and I took a day trip to the Upstate. To be specific, we journeyed one hundred miles northwest of Columbia.
Right up to where the South Carolina line melts into the North Carolina line. But we didn't set a toe on Tarheel soil.
That's because our purpose in going was to visit the only covered bridge still standing in South Carolina: Campbell's. At Beaverdam Creek.
It was a cinch to find and as charming as anticipated. You've got to love a wee vintage bridge, red as a passel of pimentos, that is by design neither square nor plumb.
The sky was still pretty nice -- studded with cirrus clouds, all cotton balls with pull-out wisps -- and although a wind had whipped up January-like, we parked and walked.
There were all of three blocks to cover, and only one of them looked remotely interesting.
It was five-ish and you'll never guess what happened.
Okay; I'll tell you. We I got hungry.
My cohorts are suggestible. I knew this and took full advantage. Time for a little something, thought I.
So: Hey let's go get a snackie at Southern Delights and More, I suggested. They're open until nine.
Being in the habit of, wherever I may find myself, at once ascertaining where to procure nourishment, I had gleaned that useful intelligence moments after our impromptu stroll began, by reading the door to said storefront establishment.
But only after pausing to openly drool over admire their inviting neon Coffee sign hung above an observant sock monkey -- er, ingabee -- perched atop a vintage Coke cooler in the window.
Speaking of cooler, it was becoming so by the millisecond. We trundled in and took the table in the window (I love sitting in windows; it makes me feel pleasantly smug), beside the ledge where the sock monkey sat lookout.
The antique-filled café was warm and bright and hardly being used at all by hungry people, although it was clear from the three-quarters-empty bakery-style cases that the proprietors did a brisk business.
TG and I ordered half-sandwiches -- pimento cheese, which we both adore, on sourdough -- and cups of soup.
I don't remember what Erica got except she requested coffee and it came in a cup the size of Kansas. Without technically raving, third daughter declared the brew a solid good.
Well. Enough about her. I am here to tell you, the pimento cheese was more than good.
TG promptly -- as in, with no discernible hesitation and zero qualifiers -- declared it the best he'd ever eaten.
~ c u e c r i c k e t s ~
Talk about your gauntlet thrown. Upon hearing the words, I felt like a pawing, snorting toro looking daggers at a billowing red cape.
As I noshed greedily I thought: Why have I never made pimento cheese in my own kitchen? Am I out of my mind?
I will thank you not to snicker about that last part.
After considerable research and having made the recipe twice now, tailoring it to my own taste and -- apparently -- TG's as well (because he totally and with an appropriate amount of contrition took back what he said in the heat of the moment in Landrum), I am happy to reveal how I did it.
So you can too.
PIRATE PIMENTO CHEESE
8 ounces (one brick) full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese (Yes, Philadelphia and yes, full fat.)
2 cups (a little more is a lot better) hand-shredded Cabot Extra-Sharp Cheddar (Don't substitute any other brand and on pain of death, do not use pre-shredded cheese. Heaven forfend.)
1/2 cup Duke's Mayonnaise (If you can't get Duke's, you can't make this recipe. Sorry not sorry.)
8 ounces mushed-up pimentos (Drain the little suckers out of their jar or jars, dump them onto your cutting board, and work them over with a mezzaluna or appropriately businesslike knife.)
Generous dollop (do not measure and have no fear) Giuliano Hot & Spicy Jalapeno Spread* (It's cheaper at Walmart than on this website I linked to but I wanted you to see a nice big picture. Mount Olive makes a similar product so if you can't secure a jar of Giuliano, go with second best but deduct one-half of a style point.)
Coarse ground black pepper and kosher salt to taste (If you still use that whiny-thin free-flowing excuse for salt and/or garden-variety black pepper dust, you are on your own and you haven't made my recipe, haaaha.)
Lemon pepper (A free-spirited sprinkling.) to taste. And totally optional.
Mix it all up. It helps to cube the cream cheese into a bowl a few hours before you make the recipe, to let its darling soft snowy creaminess develop. Then add the hand-shredded Cabot, then the Duke's, then the precious red pimentos, then the jalapenos, then the seasonings.
Mash stir mash stir until your pimento cheese is the consistency of perfection. You will know. The whole thing is easier than falling off a covered bridge. Voila. You did it. Collect your pirate papers.
Caveat: This recipe is not bland. It's not meant to be. Jenny the Pirate does not do bland.
Now pile your kicked-up pirate pimento cheese sky-high onto some good fresh rustic bread, preferably toasted. The bread, I mean.
Prepare for a thrill-dazzle to the palate, spontaneous applause and due reverence from those to whom you serve it, and a considerable boost to what I am sure is your already burgeoning culinary reputation.
You may thank me by being happy.
And that is all for now.
*Giuliano jalapenos is the ingredient that makes this pirate pimento cheese, and thus by definition, a standout. Nothing run-of-the-mill or store-bought about it. Trust me.
Happy Tuesday :: Happy Groundhog Day