I am from Alabama. I love cheese. I love pimentos. And I hate mayonnaise. My hatred of mayonnaise – and it is truly a phobia—has severely impacted my ability to enjoy one of the most Southern of Southern treats, pimento cheese. For years I have been searching for alternatives to the requisite 2 Tablespoons to ¼ cup of mayo to make the spread creamy and…spreadable. I’ve used drained Greek yogurt, cream cheese, and per Paula Deen’s suggestion, chevre. They have all been good, but still there is a picnic and road trip aspect of the spread that can’t be reproduced without the dreaded mayonnaise.
After so many years, I have given up. If I can find or make a pimento-based cheese spread that tastes good, then so be it!
Yesterday at Fromaggio at Essex Market in NYC I found one. “No mayo!” the cheesemonger assured me.
I have since forgotten exactly which cheeses are in this pimento cheese, but it is delicious. It doesn’t look Southern. (My Southern memories of it are fluorescent orange squiggles with bright red pieces of peppers, served on white bread.) This pimento cheese’s color is more subtle. Neutral, even. But the taste is not.
It is based on various sized chunks of sharp white cheddar, stirred in with cream cheese and chopped up red pimentos and green peppers. It is cheesy, sharp, tangy, and also surprisingly hot! Pepper hot. There are also pockets of white cream cheese that smooth into the bread better than any mayo ever could. The pimentos provide a “juice” of their own.
Interruption to this blog post: I just found a review of Formaggio Essex’s Pimento Cheese on grubstreet.com where it’s listed as “Trashy Cheese.” The ingredients mentioned include mayonnaise, red pepper flakes, and also sriracha sauce.
I have used sriracha in my own. It is good.
I don’t know why anybody would call this “trashy cheese.” As a Southerner, I am offended!