Richard Blais's Pimento Jack Cheese Sandwiches

[Photograph: John Lee]

Pimento cheese is one of my favorites from the Southern canon, and I find it's best when sandwiched between buttered white bread and grilled until crisp on the outside, gooey on the inside. So when I run into a pimento grilled cheese recipe in a cookbook, it's one of the first things I bookmark. That said, the Pimento Jack Cheese Sandwich in Richard Blais's new cookbook, Try This at Home, is nothing like a pimento cheese sandwich you'd see down South. There is pepper jack where there should be sharp cheddar. There are homemade roasted poblanos instead of jarred red pimentos. There is cilantro and lime zest.

Surprisingly, these apparent foibles turn out to be assets once the sandwich takes shape, and I immediately regretted scoffing at the ingredients once taking a bite.

The spicy pimento spread is matched perfectly with a sweet-tart tomato-peach chutney and a handful of bitter arugula. Both sides of the thick white bread turn extra crisp (and slightly tangy) because of a creme fraiche and egg yolk mixture spread on the outside right before cooking. And the melted butter soaks into every available pore of the bread, adding the final touch to this first-rate grilled cheese.

I just wouldn't recommend calling it pimento cheese if you're anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Why I picked this recipe: I was curious if a seriously restyled version of pimento cheese could even hold a candle to the classic.

What worked: I was skeptical of the many modifications to tradition in this sandwich but, frankly, each element worked in perfect harmony. This is an excellent sandwich.

What didn't: The chutney recipe doesn't specify tomato size, and my larger specimens made for a higher yield and longer cook time than the recipe dictates. I also ended up using a little extra mayonnaise (a tablespoon or so) to the cheese mixture because it seemed a little dry as written.

Reprinted from Try This at Home: Recipes from my head to your plate by Richard Blais. Copyright 2013. Published by Clarkston Potter. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

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Richard Blais's Pimento Jack Cheese Sandwiches

About This Recipe

Yield:makes 4 sandwiches
Active time:20 minutes
Total time:30 minutes
This recipe appears in: Richard Blais's Pimento Jack Cheese Sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces white pepper jack cheese, coarsely grated
  • 1 small poblano pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup Aioli or good quality store-bought mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lime
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 to 2 drops white truffle oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Eight 1/2-inch-thick slices brioche or Pullman sandwich white loaf
  • 1/2 cup Gentleman's Chutney
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup arugula for serving (optional)

Procedures

  1. 1

    In a medium bowl, stir the cheese, poblano, jalapeno, aioli, cilantro, lime zest and juice, and salt together until well combined. In a small bowl, whisk the creme fraiche, Parmesan, egg yolk, truffle oil, and sugar together until well combined.

  2. 2

    Lay 4 of the bread slices on a work surface and spread one-quarter of the cheese mixture evenly over each slice. Spread 2 tablespoons of the relish on each of the 4 remaining slices of bread, place them on top of the cheese, and press down lightly.

  3. 3

    Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. With a pastry brush, spread a thin layer of the creme fraiche mixture on the top of each sandwich. With a spatula, transfer the sandwiches to the skillet, creme fraiche side down, and cook until golden brown on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Lightly brush the tops of the sandwiches with the remaining creme fraiche mixture, flip them, and continue cooking until the bottoms are golden brown and the cheese is melted, 2 to 3 minutes more.

  4. 4

    Let the sandwiches stand for 5 minutes to allow the cheese to set up. Lift the top slice and add the arugula. Slice the sandwiches in half and serve warm.

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