If you are a golfer, know a golfer, or just like azaleas in bloom, then you know today is Masters Sunday.
Probably the world’s premier golf event, the Masters, its lore and the usual drama that occurs on the final round are intense. I don’t answer the phone or encourage guests during the telecast of the tournament. A ticket for the tournament, if you can get one, is thousands of dollars. Hotel rooms that were $49 a night before the tournament jump to $400 a night during Masters Week. People who actually make it to the golf course spend on average $500 in Masters gear. So what does this have to do with food? The Masters may be the cheapest place to eat of any world-class sporting event.
When the tournament started, it was not the event it is today. Tickets were cheap and easy to come by. The whole thing was much more low key. The “patrons” did need nourishment while watching the action and Augusta National offered up two sandwiches for them – chicken salad and pimento cheese. How totally southern! It’s unheard of to go to the Masters and not have one and the pimento cheese is considered a must-have.I’ve been lucky enough to go to the tournament a few times and have indulged in the pimento cheese. The price: $1.50. That’s right, a buck fifty.
Besides barbecue, pimento cheese riles up more people than not. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about pimento cheese.
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Homemade pimento cheese is far superior to any store-bought brand and is simple to make. I’ve even taken to using pre-shredded cheese from time to time. This recipe can be doctored. Some cream cheese can be added (I use those tubs of whipped cream cheese for easier blending), and sometimes I’ll add some horseradish to the mix. Of course, pimento cheese will be better if you use homemade mayonnaise. I find that Duke’s or JFG works without missing a beat. When I make this recipe, I tend to use white cheddar cheese for visual appeal and taste. American cheese is more traditional, and many folks will even add some Velveeta. One recipe I use frequently replaces the mayonnaise with Miracle Whip, a heresy to some of you.
For those from above the Mason-Dixon Line, pimento cheese is still an oddity of the south, but I think you are beginning to come around. Pimento cheese is regularly showing up on restaurant menus around the area. While pimento cheese is still widely used as sandwiches at church suppers and family reunions, or a dip for veggies and crackers, it can add some good tasting craziness to other dishes. A grilled pimento cheese sandwich is a taste of heaven. Stir some into a pot of grits or mashed potatoes. Top hot, fried green tomatoes with it, and let it ooze and mingle. Pull a page from Ben and Karen Barker and stuff it in pickled okra, as they like to call it, “Dixie Tapas.”
But today, keep it simple, a homage to the south and the Masters. White bread, pimento cheese and watching golf on the TV – in spirit and food, you’ll be closer to the dogwoods and azaleas of Augusta.
I’ve already started to duck, because I know this recipe will not suit all, and nor should it be considered the epitome of pimento cheese. I like it. Maybe you will too.
A Classic Pimento Cheese
If you have a food processor, this comes together easily.
3-4 cups grated white sharp cheddar cheese
1 (4-ounce) jar whole pimentos, drained
Mayonnaise as needed
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
A dash or two of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Fit your food processor with a metal blade. Add the cheese and pimentos. Pulse several times to combine. Add about 1/2 cup of mayonnaise and pulse again. For a creamier pimento cheese, add more mayo.
Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until everything is well blended. Remove from the food processor to a container with a cover. You can eat it now or refrigerate until ready to serve.
Yield: About 1 pint.
Serve with: As a sandwich, or with crackers and celery sticks
To drink: Keep the theme and have an “Arnold Palmer,” half iced tea and half lemonade.