by Ann Taylor Pittman
Fire & Flavor Ambassador
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 14 minutes
Yields: 4 cups (serving size: about 1/4 cup)
This recipe is my signature appetizer, one that people always love because it simply tastes far better than many pimento cheeses you’ll find. It gets its robust deliciousness from smoking the pepper—the depth of flavor is astounding. People often think I’ve included bacon in the recipe, but the meaty smokiness comes from that pepper. The quick stovetop smoking method is simple and easy (see the step-by-step photos) and will repay you tenfold when you use it. You might think it’s odd to use a block of extra-sharp cheddar and a block of mild, but this combo offers the best taste and texture. Just be sure to shred your cheese yourself on a box grater (or with your food processor); preshredded cheese is typically coated in starch to keep it from clumping, so it’s not as creamy and delicious here. Serve with buttery crackers, grilled baguette slices, crunchy crudités, and/or pork rinds.
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1/2 (8-ounce) medium yellow onion
- 1 (8-ounce) block extra-sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 (8-ounce) block mild cheddar cheese
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I prefer Duke’s)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane-style grater
- 1 (13 x 9–inch) disposable aluminum foil pan
- 1/4 cup Fire & Flavor wood smoking chips (any variety)
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1. Preheat broiler to high. Line a small sheet pan with foil. Cut off the four “walls” of the bell pepper, and arrange them, skin side up, on the prepared pan. Broil until blackened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven; carefully wrap the bell pepper in the foil used to line the pan, sealing tightly. Let stand for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, shred the onion half onto a few layers of paper towels using the large shredding holes of a box grater. (You want to absorb some of the onion juices to remove the moisture, but don’t squeeze the onion dry.) Place the shredded onion pulp in a large bowl. Shred the cheeses using the large shredding holes of the box grater; place in the bowl with the onion. Add the mayonnaise, black pepper, salt, and garlic. Stir well to combine.
3. Unwrap the bell pepper; peel and discard the skins.
4. Turn the foil pan upside down over a cutting board. Pierce 6 to 10 holes on one side of the pan, near the edge, using a knife. Turn the pan right-side-up. Arrange dry wood chips over holes in the pan. Arrange the peeled bell pepper on the other side of the pan. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Turn vent hood on. Arrange the pan over a gas or electric burner so that the holes will come in contact with the heat. Turn the burner on high; let burn 30 seconds or until smoke begins to seep out from the foil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and smoke for 4 minutes. Remove the pan from heat, and carefully uncover it. You can spritz the wood chips with water to stop them from burning. Place the bell pepper pieces on a cutting board. When wood chips are cool, you can throw them away or compost them, and place the pan in recycling.
5. Finely chop the smoked bell pepper. Stir the bell pepper and green onions into the cheese mixture. Store pimento cheese in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.