There are a lot of things in the universe we can't control. But one thing that remains firmly within our power—for now, anyway—is what we eat, which is why comfort food is such a damn beautiful thing. It's an instant mood boost. And in that category, there's nothing quite like the savoury, gooey, umami comfort of some cheese dip.
Southerners already know about the wonders of pimento cheese. But if you aren't already acquainted with this creamy, piquant foodstuff, brace yourself for gloriousness.
Raleigh, NC-based chef Ashley Christensen stopped by the MUNCHIES kitchen recently to show us how to make it. We were instantly hooked.
To make it, you start by charring some bell peppers right on the flames of your stove. Let their skin get jet-black, and turn them with tongs so that you don't burn the crap out of your hands.
Let the charred peppers rest for a bit—about 15 minutes. While they're cooling off, Christensen suggests toasting your peppercorns to give them a little extra-smoky oomph. Just throw 'em in a pan and shuffle them over a flame for a bit.
You're also going to want to finely grate some red onion—a cheese grater works fine for this.
When the peppers are done resting, rub off their skins with a dish towel. But don't rinse them! You want all of that sweet, vegetal flavour.
Remove the seeds and stems, then finely dice them up. Next, you're going to want to pickle them—preferably overnight if you have the time.
To do that, just mix them with some cider vinegar and refrigerate overnight. If you're short on time, you can also let them sit at room temperature for a few hours.
For the homemade cider mayo, which will make your pimento cheese extra creamy, simply purée an egg yolk with salt, mustard, and vinegar, then drizzle in oil. If you've never made your own mayo before, let it be known that it's about a zillion times better than the store-bought stuff.
OK, it's go time.
Combine the peppers (and the vinegar they were pickling in) with your cider mayo, the grated onion, more salt and pepper, and a generous dash of hot sauce—like, two tablespoons worth, so we mean very generous—in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, you're going to mix a fuckload of grated Cheddar cheeses (one white, one yellow, and plenty of each).
Mix the whole dang thing together and your pimento cheese is almost ready.
Look at this beautiful, creamy, spicy, decadent stuff.
Let it all sit together in the fridge for an hour so that all your flavours can mix up properly. It will be thick, but delightfully spreadable.
And there you have it: the perfect comfort-food snack (that goes wonderfully with a cold beer and a sliced baguette).
RECIPE: Pimento Cheese
I guess you're just what we needed, pimento cheese.