There are many great chefs who come from the south but one most notably was Edna Lewis, or to her great friend, Chef Scott Peacock, “Miss Lewis”.
Now deceased, Miss Lewis, was author of The Taste of Country Cooking and In Pursuit of Flavor. She co-authored The Gift of Southern Cooking. I’ve been a great fan of Edna Lewis for years and found her stories from growing up in Freetown, Va. fascinating.
In his wonderful tribute to this icon of the south, David Lebovitz, writes that Miss Lewis shared her fears on when she wrote her first cookbook in that she used coins for measuring dry ingredients. A quarter was a tablespoon and a dime was a teaspoon. That is so southern. My grandmother and mother would eyeball ingredients. With years of baking and cooking, one just develops the eye sight measurement with ease.
During these final weeks of football playoffs, I find it easier just to throw finger food together rather than plan dinner around half-time. So I decided, to make pimento cheese or as Chef Scott refers to it “pimenocheese”. We here in the south love pimento cheese between bread slices or on a cracker or on a stick of celery. I’m not talkin’ about that creamy junk in containers you buy in the market. Rather real, roughly, shredded cheese.
But first, pimento cheese all starts with homemade mayo. This is Miss Lewis’ recipe straight from her book The Taste of Country Cooking :
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon or 1/2 lemon freshly squeezed lemon juice (put the other half in a glass of tea or water while you prepare)
1 teaspoon sea salt because sea salt dissolves better than kosher salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 egg yolks (save the whites for baking or toss them, eggs are cheap)
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 tablespoon hot water
Put the vinegar, lemon juice, salt and mustard into a bowl and whisk until the salt and mustard are dissolved.
Add the egg yolks and beat until smooth.
Add the oil drop by drop at first and then in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until all of the oil has been incorporated and you have a thick emulsion.
Stir in the hot water until smooth.
Place in a jar and refrigerate up to one week.
To make pimento cheese
5 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese
5 oz white cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
pinch of ground black pepper
3/4 cups Miss Lewis mayo
3 tablespoons finely chopped pimentos
Mix together the cheese then add the mayonnaise and mix well together until creamy. Add the other ingredients and taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
There was a time when football was just that…football. Today however, it’s football and food. It has become the cliché “what comes first, the food or football”.
Beginning every fall weekend, tailgating, be it in the stadium parking lot or on the riverfront with boats tied together, has become the only way to enjoy football at it’s best. People go to great lengths to trailer in smokers for barbecue. Trays of food are prepared ahead at home and tables are set up at the back of SUV’s to spread out the food and drink.
Tailgating begins to wind down somewhat after the Christmas Holidays just like beach parties dwindle after July 4th.
The playoffs are finalizing, the games play late into the evening on the east coast but you still relate food to football.
A great late snack is the comfort of chips and dip. You could even consider it dinner and spare the rush of cooking and cleaning of the kitchen.
I have no idea what this dip is called except by the trade name “Ro-Tel”
One pound sausage, browned
Two-eight oz packages cream cheese
Two-10 oz cans Ro-Tel, diced tomatoes with chilies
Brown the sausage, drain any grease, add the cream cheese and let melt then add the cans of diced tomatoes. Let simmer a few minutes. Then…grab a Tostito Scoop and indulge.
A nice appetizer is bruschetta with a bell pepper topping. I simply can’t resist the colors of bell peppers.
Toast the slices and before serving brush the slices with olive oil along with roasted garlic.
Top with the marinated peppers.
Fast! Grab your wallet and keys. Hop in the car and drive to the grocery store.
Run into the deli section and grab a baguette, preferably small in diameter.
Run over to Aisle 5 and midway down on the right look for a jar of Roasted Bell Peppers. Walk a few feet further down and find a jar of capers.
Run back to the butcher (if there is one in your neighborhood store) and ask for six slices of bacon. Otherwise buy a small package of Kroger Brand or Wrights Brand Smoked Bacon.
Run to Aisle 10 and grab a seasonal platter (hopefully Christmasy)
Carefully drive home and sing Jingle Bells to turn your crazed day into a positive, festive outlook.
Now, your safely home. Turn the oven broiler on High. Grab a skillet and throw the bacon in it and turn the heat on Medium.
Pull out a cutting board and begin to dice/chop up the bell peppers. Drain out the capers and mix in with the peppers. Set aside.
On another cutting board or clean the other one, slice in half the baguette. Now, thinly slice about 1/2 inch thick all the baguette and place on a cookie sheet. Pour a little bit of olive oil in a bowl and with a pastry brush dab the baguettes. Place in the oven/broiler for about three to five minutes. Don’t let burn just slightly toasted.
The bacon should be getting done. Place on a paper towel to drain. Pour excess grease into a grease can (everyone has a grease can, right?) Just for added flavoring, toss in the pan of drained grease the roasted bell peppers and capers. If you happen to have a little wine or Port or Marsala even Bourbon would work. Pour a little into the pan to de-glaze. Scrub the bacon residue (or CRUD as Anne Burrell calls it) off the bottom and mix it all up. Yum.
Remove the pan of baguettes from the oven/broiler.
The bacon should be cooled down now. Chop it up into bits.
In a bowl, any size…throw all the ingredients in except the baguettes. Mix well…now, place a spoon of mixture onto a sliced baguette. Place this tray where the dog or cat can’t get to it.
Run get dressed for the party.
Grab the seasonal platter and place the baguettes on it and cover with something, foil, saran wrap, towel.
Carefully, drive to the party and drink responsibly and eat accordingly.
Have a fun time most of all.