Words and recipe by Cody Owens
Pimento cheese is a divisive thing. It’s got lovers, it's got haters, it’s got people who would ride on horseback into battle and die for it, and it’s got people who would gladly throw it in front of a moving bus with a smile on their face.
Personally, I think the issue is that too many people have been served garbage cheese. It’s one of those things you could buy in the store, but under no circumstances should you. Pimento cheese takes less than five minutes to make, and if you spend a little more money and make it yourself you’ll never go back to the Piggly Wiggly for it ever again.
(Fun fact about me: In fifth grade I submitted a song I wrote to be the new Piggly Wiggly jingle, and they didn’t choose it. My friends still sing it to this day, and that tells me that song had legs.)
Anyway, one of my favorite things to do is spread it on some fried green tomatoes and top them with some candied peppers. It’s so absurdly Southern that legend has it if you do this while drinking sweet tea on your front porch, the ghost of Hank Williams will appear and sing, “Your Cheatin’ Heart” on repeat until you cuss him out.
Without further ado, here is my recipe for Pimento Cheese and Fried Green Tomatoes:
In a large bowl, mix the following:
4 oz. cream cheese
A large handful of chives, finely diced
½ cup Duke's Mayonnaise (throw away any other kind)
1 block of some nice cheddar 10ish oz., grated (do not skimp on nice cheddar)
4-oz. jar of pimento peppers, drained and finely diced
1 serrano pepper, finely diced (add the seeds if you like heat)
¼ tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper
A pinch of cayenne
A big dab of honey
Notes: I also like to add a little sour cream if I have it handy. Add more grated cheese if it needs to thicken up a bit. And please, grate your own cheese. Processed grated cheese has a waxy coating that is just not great.
For fried green tomatoes, there are three major ingredients that are “musts” for me: flour, cornmeal, and Ruffles Sour Cream & Onion chips. In addition to those three things, I’ve found a simple egg wash will suffice for the “wet ingredients,” but feel free to add whatever you like, obviously.
Here is how I make fried green tomatoes for my loved ones:
Slice 4+ green tomatoes about ¼ inch thick
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup cornmeal
½ cup Ruffles Sour Cream & Onion chips crushed into crumb-sized bits (any chips will work, but the flavor and texture of these are perfect, in my humble opinion)
2 eggs, beaten
2 T buttermilk ranch dressing (add a dash of water to loosen it up)
In a large skillet, add enough cooking oil (preferably peanut oil) to fill at least ¼ inch of the skillet.
Add green tomato slices first to dry ingredients and press firmly, then to wet mix, and back to dry mix, pressing firmly.
In batches, add slices to hot oil and flip after about two to three minutes once browned on one side (time varies depending on your oil temperature; just keep an eye on them).
Remove from skillet and add salt to taste while they are still hot.
Since you will most likely have leftover pimento cheese, one of my favorite sandwiches of all time is something I like to call the MeeMaw Cubano.
It’s very simple: On your favorite bread, add sliced ham, pickles, pimento cheese, and mustard. Cook it in a skillet with butter until brown on each side and thank me later.