For those readers who are not from the south and/or are unfamiliar with this traditional southern finger sandwich, it is an old-school, almost ubiquitous element of any party, tea or luncheon menu. Traditionally served between two slices of white bread with the crusts cut off, this pinkish-orange spread imparts a delish creamy, cheesy, sweet, and slightly peppery flavor making it an almost universal crowd-pleaser. After gracing southern tables for around a century**, the pimiento cheese sandwich has achieved a status akin to the beloved southern grandmother who is always seated at the head of the table (regardless of whose house it is) and is always offered (and politely refuses) the first serving of everything. Like our darling grandmothers, the pimiento cheese sandwich deserves the occasional makeover, a chance to get all dolled up. As I was mulling this idea over in my mind the other day I recalled a gougère recipe I made two years ago for Thanksgiving that used Gruyere cheese and herbs, and decided this just might be the perfect reincarnation of the pimiento cheese sandwich. And so was born the pimiento cheese and scallion gougère, affectionately called not'cho mama's pimiento cheese sandwich. In the following recipe I elected to make my own pimiento cheese because I'm one of those people who prefers it to be a little less mayo-ey than the traditional spread, but feel free to substitute whatever prepared variety you prefer if you feel so inclined.
*I know some of are probably saying, "Rachel, it's pimento cheese, not pimiento," but it's one of those things that really bugs me for some reason because the pepper is Spanish in origin and is actually called a pimiento pepper, so I think it's kind of annoying that they change the spelling for the cheese.
**I did a little bit research into the history of pimiento cheese out of sheer curiosity and my inherent nerdiness, and found this website helpful, so take a look if you'd like to learn a little about the history of this spread.
Pimiento Cheese & Scallion Gougères
for the Pimiento Cheese:
1 cup each grated extra sharp yellow cheddar and extra sharp white cheddar
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup mayo
4 oz. diced pimiento peppers, drained
1/2 tsp each of onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika
1/4 tsp each of cayenne pepper and white pepper
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium bowl mix cream cheese and mayo until thoroughly combined, stir in seasonings until evenly incorporated, then stir in grated cheeses and peppers. Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and chill in fridge for about an hour so flavors can marry.
yield: approx. 2 cups of spread; for the gougères you will only need 1/2 cup
for the Gougères:
just under 1/4 cup each of milk and water*
3 1/2 Tbs salted butter, cut into pieces*
1/2 cup AP flour
pinch of salt and pepper
1 scallion thinly sliced (I recommend just using the green part, which has a milder onion flavor)
1/2 cup pimiento cheese spread
*I have slightly reduced the liquid and butter quantities from my normal gougere recipe due to the increased moisture of the pimiento cheese spread compared to the straight up grated cheese traditionally used.
Preheat oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan over med/low heat combine milk, water, and butter, stirring until butter is melted. Slowly sprinkle in flour while stirring constantly until evenly incorporated, turn heat to low and continue stirring for another minute or so. Remove pan from heat and add eggs one at a time, stirring until thoroughly incorporated after each addition. Season with salt and pepper then stir in pimiento cheese and scallions until just incorporated. Drop spoonfuls of dough (approx. 2 Tbs worth) onto baking sheet about 1 1/2 in. apart and bake 25-30 minutes until golden and puffed up.
yield: about 15 gougères
For the sake of comparison...
Mama's and Not'cho Mama's...
For the record, all evidence of this photo shoot disappeared about 5 minutes after it was taken due to the irresistible deliciousness and lack of will-power involved.