Happy Butter & Eggs Day! What a wonderful celebration of Petaluma and our heritage. I don’t often talk about myself in my articles; I am a home grown kid born and raised right here in Petaluma. My family dates back five generations to my great great grandfather coming over from Holstein Germany to work a dairy ranch in Tomales. I have lived in Europe, I went to college in NY and worked in the LA area, but I think the best place on earth is right here in Petaluma. You cannot beat the quality of product and the pride that we have in it!
I recently got to participate in the Chef vs Chef at the Artisan Cheese Festival in March. Being a local I decided to pair with two other locals for my entry. Thanks to Larry Peters and Spring Hill Farms for the use of two or their cheeses; a two year aged white cheddar and a garlic jack. These two cheeses are also featured on our Sonoma County Bounty display we often have at catering events. A big shout out to Hoot and team at Kastania Winery for their 2011 Proprietors Blend that we paired with.
Now I know what you are waiting for - just what did we make? An adult grilled cheese with bacon. It is a bite sized savory grilled pimento cheese cake with bourbon brown sugar bacon. Yes I said bourbon brown sugar bacon! At the writing of this I don’t know how we will do but I have my fingers crossed.
So where did Pimento cheese come from? I love southern cuisine. After a trip to New Orleans a couple of years ago my interest has increased. I have always made a good fried chicken (my nephew will say the best) and have started adding more southern dishes to my repertoire. The dishes of our southern states are considered by many to be the most quintessential example of American food, and certainly one of the most recognizable regional cuisines.
The origin of pimento cheese is not that elegant, it is the result of two processed foods. In the early 1900 a food scientist was trying recipes to get more Americans to purchase prepared foods. It was a combination of canned pimentos and cream cheese. In its heyday each family would have had their own treasured recipe. Many cookbook authors referring to it as the “caviar of the south”. From dainty tea sandwiches to school lunches to workman it was a mainstay. Now considered a retro dish it was fun to play with.
My recipe is a bit dryer and mixed more than is traditional in order to hold up to molding it in to little cakes and browning it.
1 cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar (I used white)
1 cup Shredded Garlic Jack
6 oz Cream Cheese
¼ cup Mayonnaise
½ tsp Dijon Mustard
¼ tsp Garlic Powder
¼ tap Cayenne Pepper
4 oz drained diced Pimentos (drain very well)
Place all ingredient except the peppers in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer. Mix until it comes together, then add the peppers and mix until just combined. At this point you can form in to a large cheese ball or just use as a spread.
To make the little cakes form it in to ¾ oz balls using a small ice cream scoop, and roll between your hands to make them round. Then roll them in bread crumbs, and press into a patty. Chill over night or freeze.
Heat a medium skillet over medium high with about 2 tablespoons of oil. You will need to work fast so the cakes don’t melt. Brown each on both sides then remove to a paper towel to remove any extra fat.
Brown Sugar Bourbon Bacon
8 oz medium thick bacon
4 oz bourbon
4 ox brown sugar
1/8 t salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
Place the bacon in a heavy bottom skillet, add the bourbon. Bring to a boil, and cook until the bourbon is gone and you have just bacon and fat. The bacon will still be very limp. Remove the pan from the heat and drain, and transfer the bacon to a bowl and allow to cool until you can handle it. Next toss with the brown sugar, salt, pepper and cayenne. Toss Well. Lay out on a rimmed cookie sheet or baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until crisp. When cool, julienne for topping.
To Assemble: Top each pimento cake with just a dab of whipped cream cheese as an adhesive. Top with a pinch of the bacon bits, bit of diced pimento pepper and parsley for garnish. Enjoy.