If you watched the last season of "Food Network Star," you saw Damaris Phillips crowned the season nine winner, and you also saw her being congratulated by Bobby Flay...
And then you know what pimento cheese recipe I'm talking about.
Phillips won the competition by pitching a show idea that puts her in the role of matchmaker, using Southern food to fan the flames of love. After a little more tweaking and refining, the results of that pitch, "Southern at Heart," will premier Sunday, Oct. 27, at 10:30 a.m. on Food Network. The network description: "From preparing a special dish for a date to helping beginners master the perfect meal for their partner, Damaris plays matchmaker and chef to a tee in her six-episode series, providing entertainment and delicious food along the way."
But back to the pimento cheese!
The Flay Man, an Iron Chef, grillmaster, and one of the judges who crowed Phillips the winner, whispered an aside to her, complimenting her both on her win and on her pimento cheese secret. The secret being that she uses cream cheese, and not just mayo.
Apparently, it was a secret that Phillips shared with Flay during the competition. He said the use of the cream cheese helped the pimento cheese spread hold its own and not melt away when added to a burger.
So, of course, I needed that recipe.
To the uninitiated, pimento cheese is a popular dish dubbed the Caviar of the South. There are as many recipes for it as there are uses: Put it on a burger, a hot dog, a cracker, a tea sandwich, tortilla chips, an old shoe -- it improves everything it touches. Some variation ingredients include pickles and hot sauce. There are even variations on the kind of cheeses to use, from Velveeta to sharp cheddar to Gouda.
Here is the recipe as given to The Times by Phillips. I tried it -- you can see the results above -- and served it with crackers and carrot sticks. I had high hopes for it. As in, I had high hopes that I would have leftovers to put on a burger, or to make a grilled cheese sandwich.
That didn't happen.
The entire batch was devoured at one girls night gathering. I made it exactly the way the recipe suggests, but next time I will try some of Phillips' recommended mix-ins (see below), such as Asian garlic sauce.
And, note to self, I'll also set some aside for a burger topping or a grilled cheese sammie.
Damaris Phillips' pimento cheese
4 ounces softened cream cheese
4 ounces diced pimentos
2 ounces mayonnaise
8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
Place cream cheese and mayonnaise into a large mixing bowl and beat at medium speed until thoroughly combined. Add cheddar cheese. Mix till combined, then add pimentos (add them last so they don't get too beat up). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Note from Phillips: "Have a certain type of cheese you love? Feel free to substitute another type of cheese in for additional flavor. For example, substitute 2 ounces of blue cheese in for 2 ounces of the sharp white cheddar cheese. Feel like adding a little kick to your pimento cheese? Substitute another pepper or flavor in for the 2 ounces of pimentos. For example, I've tried Asian chili garlic sauce, kimchi, banana peppers, ghost peppers and horseradish sauce."