The Joys of Southern cooking

By on March 30, 2013

057No self-respecting Southern kitchen would ever be without pimiento cheese.

I’m not talking about the soulless, processed pimiento cheese that comes in tubs from the grocery store. I’m talking about homemade pimiento cheese AKA Carolina Caviar.

A proper pimiento cheese spread is a classic Southern dish and every family has its own recipe for pimiento cheese.

If you went to any party, picnic, or social gathering in the South, I remember there was always a tray of pimiento cheese sandwiches on cheap white bread. If you went to the country club or a wedding reception, the pimiento cheese sandwich was fancied up by removing the crusts and cutting it into triangles.

I remember the crisp celery sticks with pimiento cheese spread in the groove, wondering why the celery stick was even there. There was always a container of pimiento cheese in Mama Hawthorne’s refrigerator and, many a time, on a late night munch, I could be found basking in the glowing light of an open fridge, slathering pimiento cheese spread onto Ritz crackers.

There is no one recipe for pimiento cheese. Some people use yellow cheddar; others use white. Some people add in grated or chopped onions, cream cheese, pickles, celery seed, olives, jalapenos, cayenne powder, Worcestershire, hot sauce, or garlic.

002When it comes to pimiento cheese for me, I’m somewhat of a purist. All I need is extra sharp cheddar cheese, a jar of pimientos with juice, mayo (Hellman’s), freshly ground pepper, and perhaps some cayenne powder.

I’ve also taken the extra step and made Grilled Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches with slices of ham and tomato, truly a thing of beauty.

Today, I’m taking the ubiquitous pimiento cheese spread to new heights of glory. I’m making Pimiento Cheese Fritters.

Note: For best results, I’m giving the cheese measurements in ounces, not cups or fractions of cups. An inexpensive digital scale is an invaluable kitchen tool for me, since I prefer to measure certain items by weight, not volume. For example, if I told you to add 1 cup of grated cheese to a recipe, that one cup could vary a great deal depending on how packed it was. A cup of cheese varies depending on the mass of the contents.

059Fried Pimiento Cheese Fritters
(Makes 36 balls.)
8 ounces grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
4 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
7 ounces pimientos
1 tsp Cajun seasoning (I use Slap Ya Mama.)
3 TB mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s, although some die-hard Southerners would never think of making pimiento cheese without using homemade mayonnaise.)
1 heaping TB minced pickled jalapenos
Pinch salt

Mix everything until well-combined. Chill for at least two hours.
Roll into balls. I used a melon baller to keep the balls a consistent size. Place the balls on a metal baking sheet, cover, and chill for at least an hour, or until ready to batter and fry.

Breading Ingredients
Flour
Buttermilk
Panko
Put flour, buttermilk, and panko in three separate bowls.
Place a pimiento cheese ball in the flour and roll until completely covered. Shake off excess.
Roll balls in buttermilk.
Roll in panko, pressing the crumbs into the cheese. Completely coat pimiento cheese balls to prevent leakage during frying.
Chill balls on metal tray for one – two hours.

Heat peanut oil in large pot to 325 degrees.
I fried 6 balls at a time in a 2-quart pot filled 1/3 with peanut oil. Never crowd your pan when frying. This lowers the temperature of the oil and leaves you with a greasy, soggy end-product. Keep your temperature constant. Fry until golden brown. About three minutes.
Drain on paper towels.

019When you bite into the crisp crust, you are greeted with melted, ooey-gooey pimiento cheese filling. The contrast in textures, the bite of the jalapeno, the oozy goodness of cheese all combine to create a lovely, little appetizer.

I like to serve the Pimiento Cheese Fritters with my homemade Basil Jalapeno Jelly. For the step-by-steps for pimiento cheese fritters and the recipe for Basil Jalapeno Jelly, please refer to my blog post.

Some of the most emblematic of southern foods are black-eyed peas, grits, barbecue, biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes, and our greens — be they collard, mustard, turnip, beet, or kale.

083I say “our” greens because I feel somewhat proprietary when it comes to greens. It’s a Southern thang.

Luckily for me, greens are no farther away than a few steps out the door.

Instead of the typical Southern method of cooking the greens down with ham or salt pork, I’m taking my greens in a slightly different, updated direction. I’m making oven-baked Green Chips. After trying this recipe, even some of you Yankees might appreciate a Southern vegetable classic.

Rosie’s Green Chips
Mess o’ greens
I used a frilly green kale, a black Russian kale, and mustard greens.
Thoroughly wash the greens and individually shake each leaf to get off excess moisture.
Lay leaves in a single layer on a kitchen towel and blot dry.
Be sure to get out the moisture held within the frills of the kale.
All moisture must be out of the leaves. Moisture leads to steam which leads to limp leaves, not crisp leaves.
191Do not salt before baking. Salting brings out moisture.
Lay leaves in single layer on an oiled baking sheet. I use a favorite extra virgin olive oil.
Massage leaves, lightly coating in oil.
Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes.
Place on paper towels to remove any excess oil.
Season with sea salt, sesame seeds, or cayenne pepper.

Enjoy these little stained-glass treats.

Warning: These are highly addictive.

As always, I hope you’ll visit with Rosie at Kitchens Are Monkey Business

 

 

 




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