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 pimento
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.