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Barefoot Contessa’s Spicy Pimento Cheese Spread
Last year I received Modern Comfort Food, a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook from my boss because she knows how much I LOVE Ina Garten. (Thanks, Sascha!). I tagged many recipes to try and the first one was Spicy Pimento Cheese Spread.
Unless you are from the South, where Pimento Cheese recipes abound, you may be unfamiliar with Pimento Cheese, which is a yummy, creamy comfort food. This was one of my mom’s go-to hors d’oeuvres for her annual Christmas Eve party. However, my mom’s pimento cheese came in a jar — a tiny 5 oz. Kraft cheese jar to be more specific. I remember helping spread the pimento cheese onto celery sticks which she paired with ham and cream cheese roll ups (pinned with a fancy toothpick!). I still have the glass platter that she used to serve those appetizers.
Tom has fond memories of that tiny cheese jar too, although his involves alcohol (of course it does). Apparently, his dad used to let him have a “cheese glass” of beer while they were watching Dodgers’ games when he was a kid. Tom said he hated the beer, but felt very grown-up imbibing with his dad.
Ina’s recipe includes jalapeños and Sriracha (YES!), which is right up my alley. Ina serves her spread with Ritz crackers and corn chips. I use my mom’s preferred dipping tool … celery sticks. Trader Joe’s Red Chili Scalloped Crackers are also a great option if you want to go the cracker route. If you haven’t tried those yet, you really should. Delicious.
Ina’s recipe calls for “granulated onion (not onion powder).” I didn’t have either so I used one of my absolute favorite seasonings from Penzeys called Sunny Paris. It’s a salt free combination of purple shallots, chives, green peppercorns, French basil, French tarragon, chervil, bay leaf and dill weed. It is so good, I add it to almost everything I cook these days (try it on eggs).If you can’t find a jar of pimentos, substitute with a ½ cup roasted, marinated red peppers, drained and finely diced.
This recipe is so easy to make, delicious and will definitely a staple at our holiday parties … or try it on a grilled cheese sandwich, really!
Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!!
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature (not low fat)
¾ cup good mayonnaise (Ina recommends Hellman’s but on the West Coast that would be Best Foods)
1 ½ teaspoons granulated onion (not onion powder)
2 large garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon whole celery seed
1 4-oz. jar diced pimentos, drained (or marinated red peppers)
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
¾ cup (6 ounces) pickled jalapeño peppers, drained and chopped
4 green onions sliced, white and pale green parts
10 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar, grated (try Cabot)
Dipping tool of your choice: Celery sticks, crackers, corn chips or tortillas chips, something sturdy
In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, onion, garlic, celery seed and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir in the remaining ingredients and combine well.
Taste for seasonings. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour and preferably overnight to allow the flavors to meld. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
Very slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Spicy Pimento Cheese Spread.