Just in time for holiday feasting, snacking, sharing, and celebrating, this smart, inviting new cookbook by my friend Perre Coleman Magness will be getting a workout all holiday season long. That will continue through the year, because it’s not just for holiday occasions, but what a boon to have it here now. I’ve been enjoying both in my reading chair and at the kitchen counter, and so far, SO GOOD! The author, Perre Coleman Magness, is my good friend, known and loved for her Southern-seasoned recipe-centered blog, The Runaway Spoon. Check it out and subscribe to it right here:
What a treat to be IN Perre’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, this fall, on Publication Day for this delightful cookbook! Reason being, I was attending the Association of Food Journalists annual conference along with Perre and a host of our food-and-words-and-pictures-loving food-writer friends. I had a blast hanging out with Perre during that conference, especially having her guidance as a native Memphian in sharing her fascinating, historic, beautiful and important city with me. Can’t wait to go back, but what a gift, first thing was Perre coming in my direction for two book-launch events!
Perre kicked off her all-fall tour of Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook with a visit to Piedmont North Carolina. What a treat to have her in town for two book signing events and some free-time fun. First was a snack-enhanced event at @Flyleaf Books, co-hosted by The Root Cellar, the fine, fun eatery right next door to Flyleaf Books where Chef Sera Cuni served up pimento cheese popcorn, three kinds of pimento cheese, and more straight out of Perre’s book.
On Saturday morning, Perre shared her book and its story with fans at McIntyre’s Books, located just 8 miles south of Chapel HIll in Fearrington Village. Everybody loved Perre, of course, eagerly lining up for signed books. They stayed patient thanks to themed snacks from the book: See the last few Pimento Cheese Stuffed Eggs (page 41 ), which I made in a jiffy that morning, and a few spoonfuls of Buttermilk Pimento Cheese (page 33 ).
Intrigued by the 36 recipes in the cookbook which use pimento cheese as a starting point and inspiration, I tried my hand at Pimento Cheese Green Beans (page 125), in hopes that I might find a worthy dish for Thanksgiving, with notes of green bean casserole, taken to higher place. I was right! It’s luscious, satisfying, simple to make and sure to please a crowd at any covered dish supper, holiday meal, or gathering of hungry people.
Then I went to a dish which reminded me of cheese straws, a Southern specialty beloved at holiday snack tables and yearround parties, and the perfect take-along gift for any host. They came out wonderfully, and I love that I could make half of them and freeze the remaining portion, ready to slice up and bake later this months when holiday baking season really gets going.
I used pecans but walnuts would be just as tasty. There’s a little bit of cayenne in there, and I think next time I might boost it so as to have a fiery edge to half of my batch. Like all Perre’s recipes, these dishes from Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook worked wonderfully as written and provided excellent results. Her recipes include simple and complex dishes, elaborate and easy dishes, and the common thread is that the results are delicious and instructions make sense, even for a novice cook, without talking down to us old-timers who have been around the block, or kitchen counter a time or two. Get this book. For you or for a friend. You will love it.
- One 4-oz. jar diced pimentos
- 8 oz. sharp orange cheddar cheese
- 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1⁄2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1⁄2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1⁄2 tsp. sweet paprika
- Dash of cayenne pepper
- A generous pinch of kosher salt
- A few grinds of black pepper
- 1⁄2 cup chopped pecans
- Rinse and drain the pimentos and place them on paper towels. Pat them dry and then leave them for 10-15 minutes to air-dry. Grate the cheese and the cold butter together in a food processor fitted with the grating disk. Switch from the grating disk to the metal blade, then add the flour, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, smoked and sweet paprikas, cayenne, salt and black pepper. Process until the dough just begins to come together and looks moist and grainy. Add the pecans and process until the dough begins to pull away from the sides and is about to form a ball. Add the pimentos and pulse a few times just until the dough forms a ball.
- Dump the dough onto a piece of waxed paper, being sure to scrape out all the pimento pieces. Knead the dough a few times just to incorporate and distribute the pimento pieces. Cut two more lengths of waxed paper, divide the dough into 2 portions and place each portion on one length of waxed paper. Form each dough portion into a log and roll tightly, pressing in the ends to form a nice solid log and twisting the ends closed like a candy wrapper.
- Refrigerate the logs for at least 1 hour before baking, but you can refrigerate them for up to 2 days or freeze them for 3 months. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the rolls from the fridge and slice into medium-thick wafers, about 1⁄4-inch each. Place on the baking sheet, allowing a little room between them to spread, and bake until golden around the edges and firm on the top, 10-12 minutes. Cool on the pans for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.