Daydreamin’ and still thinkin’ of PC

I still can’t get pimento cheese off my mind after this article. People will try to fuss with pimento cheese, but the beauty of it is in its simplicity. I found a recipe in a Charleston, S.C. Junior League cookbook that even included Grand Marnier. I know Charlestonians like their toddies, but liqueur has no place in PC. I had to just lie down for a while after reading that.

However, using classic pimento cheese in a myriad of ways is perfectly acceptable. On top of a burger, sublime. I remembered eating this sort of pimento cheese fritter at a Southern Foodways Alliance event, and the recipe is in “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.” I haven’t tried to cook this, but I imagine it is tricky to make. But having eaten the finished product, it would be worth it. Having experience at frying cheese sticks might help, or perhaps yelling “Opa!” Of course, you could save a step by purchasing good (I mean GOOD, not that orange goo that tastes like caulking) PC instead of making it, but this is bound to be some good pimento cheese.

Pimento Cheese Hush Puppies from John Currence

Makes about 2 dozen

Pimento Cheese:

6 ounces extra sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (1 1/2 cups)

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/3 cup chopped bread-and-butter pickles

3 tablespoons pickle juice

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1/4 cup drained and chopped pimentos

1/4 cup homemade mayonnaise

Salt and fresh cracked pepper

Seasoned flour:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Egg wash:

2 large eggs

1/4 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

Seasoned crumbs:

3 cups panko bread crumbs or seasoned cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Melted lard or peanut oil for frying

To make the pimento cheese: Mix the Cheddar cheese, creams cheese, pickles, pickle juice, cayenne, hot sauce, pimentos and mayonnaise, as well as salt and pepper to taste, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cover and refrigerate until firm and well chilled. Mold the chilled pimento cheese into scant 1/2-ounce balls that are about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate until well chilled.

To make the seasoned flour: Sift together the flour, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper into a bowl and set aside.

To make the egg wash: whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and hot sauce in a bowl and set aside.

To make the seasoned crumbs: Whisk together the panko, salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside. If you use the seasoned cornmeal instead of the panko, the final product will be more like a traditional hush puppy.

To form and cook the hush puppies: Dredge the pimento cheese balls by coating them in the seasoned flour, then the egg wash, then the seasoned crumbs. There must be no bare spots. Fry at once, or cover and refrigerate for up to several hours. The pimento cheese must stay cold and firm.

Pour melted lard or peanut oil into a deep, heavy skillet or Dutch oven to a depth of at least 3 inches. Heat the oil to 325 degrees. Carefully lower the hush puppies into the hot fat. They must be submerged. Don’t move them or poke at them; otherwise, they will spring a leak and all the pimento cheese will ooze out, ruining both the hush puppies and the oil. Transfer with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels. Important: Let the hush puppies cool for several minutes before eating or you will end up at the hospital needing a skin graft in your mouth. And we all know where they get that skin for grafting.

Food News Roundup

Ah, pimento cheese. I can say I knew you when, before the gourmets got their hands on you. So can Kathleen Purvis in her witty and fitting piece in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer here. She also firmly roots it as Southern, which I’ve always known in my PC-eating bones but a historian now confirms it. Growing up in Winston-Salem, N.C., it was our family’s peanut butter – we always had it around. My mother, who loved anything that was frozen or came from a box, actually made it from scratch occasionally, which shows its hallowed place. It’s also in The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) here.

The Attack of the Squash Creatures has begun. The CSA I belong to just says “take all you want.” The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal has recipes for squash pancakes and secrets to getting the very moist vegetable to hold together. It’s here. (Ignore the rather unappealing photographs.)

Cucumbers are another invader, and I’m seeing plenty of those, too. But, Cucumber Bread? The Salisbury (N.C.) Post has the story and a recipe, which the writer says she has tried out, here.

If you’re headed for Asheville, N.C. this coming weekend, you can combine tasting microbrews with an outdoor movie. To celebrate its third anniversary, Wedge Brewing will sponsor a showing of the moonshine-running classic “Thunder Road.” The details are in the Asheville Citizen-Times, here.

I’ve never been sure what’s in butterbeer, but a Kansas City woman would know. The Kansas City Star has an article on her ultimate Harry Potter parties with tips on throwing you own. It’s all here. The final Potter movie debuts Friday.

The Portland Oregonian talks about how chefs are getting into canning and preserving, making their own condiments and pickles. It’s here. (But, please, can we can the “can-do” headlines on every canning article?)