Gingerman recently expanded our cable services, for which I am truly thankful because now I get the Food Network. The last time I had it was during the second season of The Next Food Network Star when the bold and brash Guy Fieri beat sugar baker Reggie Southerland in the finals. I like both of them, but Guy was totally made for American TV. He now hosts several shows on Food Network including:
I watched an episode of Ultimate Recipe Showdown featuring burgers, and the cooks were really creative. There was a turkey burger, a vietnamese burger, and a unique artery-clogging Croque Monsieur burger, but the winning patty was 74-year-old Harold Cohen’s Southern Pimento Cheese Burger which looked incredibly nummy. Harold made his own slaw and pimento cheese, right there on stage, so I followed his lead and started from scratch.
Pimentos are the little red bits stuffed in a martini olive. They are slices of sweet, succulent, heart-shaped Cherry Peppers, a type of red bell pepper (Capsicum annuum). The taste is distinctive, and pimento cheese is popular in the Southern US. Homemade pimento cheese is definitely better than that thick orange goo in a jar we used to eat in white bread sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
Like the slaw, pimento cheese spread gets better if it rests a while, so I made it ahead of time. It comes down to three simple things: cheese, creaminess, and spice. For authentic taste, be sure to use real pimentos, quality cheddar cheese, and don’t forget the pickle juice! I’m a big fan of sharp old cheddar, but you can use a blend of cheeses if you want (some recipes use Monterey Jack, Colby, or American cheese). There are oodles of recipes out there for Pimento Cheese Spread, so really it’s one of those things you can make to suit yourself. The peppers and cheese must be the star of the show, but there’s room to experiment. After the mixture sits in the fridge, the flavours get a chance to know each other better. Delicious!
I used a mini-processor to blend everything together coarsely. Add a little extra liquid (milk or water) or a bit more cream cheese make an even smoother puree. Melting the cheese first is another way to create a more homogenized spread, but I like having cheesy bits that can melt on a burger (or under a broiler on toast).
Slaw isn’t something I usually make, but I do like eating it. I wanted mine to be crunchy, tangy, and creamy, with a hint of sweetness. I compared a few recipes and started by sautéing a little bit of minced onion, then mixed that into some honey and apple cider vinegar, a shake of celery seed, mustard, and some mayo. It came together fine and tasted pretty good, but something was missing. I think it needed some lemon to wake up the flavours, plus I discovered I don’t really like celery seed much.
Harold jacked up the meaty flavour in his burger by adding chopped ham to the ground meat and topping it off with bacon. I just wanted to have a good burger with a whole lotta that cheese spread on it. I figured bacon bits would be awesome in the slaw, though. That turned out to be a good idea, and it kinda made up for the presence of celery seed.
For the burger patties, I mixed up some ground sirloin with a few spices (nothing fancy) and cooked them in a skillet while a couple of buns went under the broiler to toast. When they’re ready, they get a good shmear of homemade pimento cheese spread. Top off the burger with a fair bit of delicious bacon studded coleslaw, add a side of cherry tomatoes, and a sprinkling of Terra Stix for crunch. Yum. Yum yum yum. It was a sloppy delicious mess, and I’d definitely make them again.
Curious Pimento Cheese Spread
- Small jar of pimentos with juice
- 2 TBS minced onion
- 1 garlic clove minced
- Dash of cayenne pepper or hot sauce
- Splash of worchestershire sauce
- 1 Tbs pickle juice (yes, juice from the pickle jar)
- 2 oz cream cheese
- Canadian cheddar (about 1 1/2 cups grated)
Mix together everything except the cheddar, then fold in the grated cheddar, cover, and let sit in fridge until ready to use. Slather it on burgers, spread it on toast, or dollop some on an omelette.
*Note: The fresh version is really nice on hot foods or as a grilled cheese, but sometimes I make this using powdered onion and garlic instead (1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/8 tsp garlic powder).
Bacon Studded Slaw
Make the Bacon Bits:
Chop 6-8 slices of thick bacon into small pieces. Cook over medium heat until browned and crispy. Drain bits on paper towel.
Mix the dressing:
- 2 Tbs minced onion, cooked briefly
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbs honey
- 1 tsp mustard
- 2 Tbs mayo
- 2 Tbs milk
- Dash of celery seed (optional)
- S & P
Toss dressing with:
- 1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thin
- 1 large carrot, grated
- Homemade Bacon Bits