Sandwiched: Grilled Chili-Cheese Spread


The greatest column since sliced bread.


It's getting hot in here. [Photograph: María del Mar Sacasa]

When my Grilled Pimento Cheese, Ham, and Homemade Pickles recipe was published earlier this year, there was a lot of enthusiasm, but also, some skepticism. The Southern spread, whose recipe (often safeguarded more than great-great-great-grandma's silver punch bowl) varies from household to household, is a topic of much debate.

Is it good? Is it "awful gunk" as one Serious Eater described it? If gunk you think it is, move along, because this here is a twist on the original. And, if you're a purist, you may want to avert your eyes as well.

One of the appeals of the original pimento cheese is the number of condiments and seasonings it packs in: dry mustard, Worcestershire, cayenne, hot sauce, etc. When judiciously added, they create a properly balanced, no-nonsense cheese spread that invigorates crackers and celery sticks, and of course, makes a unique sandwich filling.

Since the base of pimento cheese spread (at least my recipe) is a simple cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and mayonnaise mixture that's whipped up by hand, it does provide wiggle room for the addition of more or less ingredients, according to taste. For a twist on the classic, this recipe adds charred jalapeño and poblano peppers, as well as a warm hint of ground cumin. The soft, spreadable texture remains the same as always, but the flavors are bit more assertive and spicy. Still appropriate to serve as an appetizer with crudités and crackers, this chili cheese is clearly the perfect thing to thickly slather between two pieces of good chewy bread, then grilled until golden and crisp.

About the author: María del Mar Sacasa is a recipe developer, food stylist, and author of the food blogs High Heels & Frijoles and Cookin' and Shootin'.
Behind her girly façade lurks a truck driver's appetite. Read about her cravings and suffer through her rants on Twitter @HHandFrijoles and see her constant stream of food images on Instagram: mdmsacasa

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