Sunday, September 27, 2009

North Carolina to Go (Pimento Cheese, inspired by Bill Neal)

Cal State Fullerton Baseball. USC Football. The College World Series in Omaha. Carroll College Football. (And I’m assuming, hoping, praying, Tar Heel Baseball, Basketball and Football). Aside from being championship programs, what do all of these collegiate sports institutions have in common?


Oh yeah, serious tailgating. The kind you plan for all week. The kind that makes you say to your husband, “sure honey, Mother’s Day brunch in the Cal State Fullerton parking lot sounds great.” And mean it.

Yesterday was Homecoming at Carroll College, where our son goes to school and is a member of the football team. The day started out as scheduled, smoke from grills wafting through the air, a band playing on the practice field. Purple and gold everywhere.

And yes, the Fighting Saints won. But I dare say that the game on the field was matched by the game in the parking lot. These people know how to throw a tailgate, with a smoker the size of a small car, mounds of pulled pork, large pots of chili, racks of ribs and salads galore.

In celebration of our new home, I decided to bring one of my favorite pre-game appetizers, a pimento cheese spread that was inspired by late Chapel Hill area chef, Bill Neal, of Crook's Corner fame. Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients - makes about 3 cups

  • 16 ounces aged white cheddar cheese, grated – if you like a milder flavor, you can also mix mild cheddar with sharper white cheddar.
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 small jar diced pimentos, drained. I like to chop them a bit more to help them blend into the cheese
  • 6 Tbs mayonnaise – Best Foods or Helman’s or Best Food’s please
  • 3 Tbs Jack Daniels Tennessee Whisky – if you don’t have this on hand, buy one of those little airline sized bottles at a liquor store. You’ll use about ½ of the little bottle. Do what you feel best with the leftovers (-;
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin (don’t sweat it if you don’t have this on hand. I didn’t this weekend and it was still great)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste (a dash of Tabasco works, too)

  • Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl until well blended
  • Chill 30 minutes before serving
  • The traditional cracker to serve this with is a saltine. I also like Club crackers.

Leftovers (if you’ve got ‘em) make a killer grilled cheese, especially nice with a thick slice of tomato.

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