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Southern Pimento Cheese Burger

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There are only a few foods that I am very emotionally attached to, and as I’m sure you realized this week, pimento cheese is one of those foods.  But, as I mentioned, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to pimento cheese, and so in approaching today’s recipe, I had to take a very liberal interpretation of what was suggested.  A lot of times (outside of baking) a recipe is really just that… a suggestion.

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This recipe is from a Food Network Challenge burgers special.  It was actually the winner, and I have since seen it in a number of T.G.I.Friday’s commercials.  The recipe is good in theory, though there are certain elements of it that I’ve rewritten.  Beyond the pimento cheese, the recipe calls for ham to be put in the food processor and added to the burger.  I think ham is gross, but Dan loves it, so I put ham in his but not in mine.  I also added my own flavor twist on the burgers, adding horseradish and soy sauce.

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I thought that the honey cole slaw was such a great idea.  I am all about new twists on classic southern fare.  For our wedding Beaufort Grocery is making mango cole slaw, which I’m so excited about.  Sometimes during the summer I think a light blueberry cole slaw is perfect, and sweet cole slaws add a different element when they’re combined with things like burgers and barbeque.

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Southern Pimento Cheese Burger
Source: Adapted from Food Network

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1/4 cup country ham

3 cups cabbage, finely chopped

4 tbsp red onion, chopped

2 tbsp mayonnaise

4 tbsp honey

1/2 tbsp horseradish

1 tbsp soy sauce

Salt & pepper

4 strips of bacon

Pimento cheese, recipe here

Start by making your pimento cheese, since that will need to settle a bit.  Find the instructions here.

Next, make your cole slaw. Finely chop your cabbage.  If you can’t find a head of cabbage at the market, you can usually find a bag of already shredded cabbage.  Traditionally with cole slaw I blend the ingredients in a food processor, but with this I just used a spoon to combine the ingredients.  Mix together your cabbage, honey, mayonnaise, and a little salt and pepper.

I like to make my patties a few hours before we’re going to eat them so that the flavors have time to really meld.  So to start go ahead and dump your ground beef into a mixing bowl.  Use a silicon spatula to spread it out a bit, and create a well in the center.  Add the horseradish and soy sauce, and blend until totally combined.  Since I was making one patty with ham and the other without, I took out half of the meat, formed a patty, and set it aside.  Put your ham in the food processor and chop until in tiny pieces.  Add the ham to the remaining meat and combine until smooth.  Make your patty, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours until you’re ready to cook.

When you’re ready to start dinner, go ahead and cook your bacon.  When the bacon is done, set it aside and retain 1 tbsp of the grease in the pan.  Over  medium heat, start your burgers.  For a medium rare burger, you should cook them 7-10 minutes on each side over medium heat.

While the burgers are cooking, toast your buns and then spread a layer of pimento cheese on the bottom bun.  Top by two strips of bacon on each burger.  Add the burger when it’s finished and put a healthy serving of cole slaw on top.

Serves 2.

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Jalapeño Bagels

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My mother being from New Jersey, I know a good bagel, even by the toughest standards. Southerner though I am, I can appreciate a really good bagel. Crispy on the outside but almost doughy on the inside, I melt with the rest of them at bagel perfection. My favorite variety of bagel is the jalapeño bagel.

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Jalapeño bagels are rarely too spicy, as a lot of dishes containing jalapeños can be. The heft and weight of the bread levels out the spicy, and the effect is doubled if you enjoy your bagel with cream cheese. I myself either like my bagels in the form of a breakfast sandwich, or with a little strawberry jam. I am, you see, perpetually a sweet and spicy girl.

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I found this recipe in a children’s book titled Jalapeño Bagels, by Natasha Wing.  It’s a sweet book about a boy whose mother is hispanic and father is Jewish.  His parents own a panaderia (bakery), and the food that they make that best represents them as a family is a jalapeño bagel because it melds both cultures.  I really appreciate it when children’s books add something extra that you can use to make reading the book a holistic experience.  The book ends with a recipe for jalapeño bagels so after reading it to your child you could make them together.

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The recipe is pretty straightforward and fairly simple to make.  I had a few hangups along the way, for instance I ended up with only eleven bagels that completely varied in size.  Another recipe we found suggests making a ball and then poking a hole through the middle and working outward.  I think tomorrow when we make blueberry bagels I’m going to try that because my big complaint with these was that the circles were too big and the sides weren’t thick enough.  For the most part though, this recipe was straightforward, easy, and a lot of fun.  I don’t think you get bagels fresher than this!

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Jalapeño Bagels
Source: Jalapeño Bagels by Natasha Wing 

1 3/4 cups luke warm water

1/2 tsp dry yeast

2 tsps salt

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

6 cups flour

1/3 cup jalapeños, chopped

1/4 cup dried red peppers

Mix water, yeast, salt, and sugar.  Add flour and jalapenos and mix into a ball.  Knead for ten to twelve minutes, adding more flour if you need to.  Add red peppers and knead for three additional minutes.  Let the dough rest for ten minutes, then cut into twelve pieces with a knife.

Roll each piece of dough on a table to form a long cigarlike shape.  Then, for each of the twelve pieces, connect the two ends by overlapping them about 3/4 of an inch and rolling the ends together to make a ring shape.  Make sure it’s secure or it will come apart while you’re boiling it.  If you’re having a hard time keeping the bagel together in a ring, wet the ends and press them together, kind of like you did making clay pots in elementary school.

Cover the dough with a damp towel (paper or cloth) and let it rise for an hour and a half in a warm spot.  In a large pot, bring two gallons of water to a boil.  Drop the bagels in the water and boil until they float (about thirty seconds).  Remove and place them on a slightly greased baking sheet.  Bake at 400 for fifteen minutes or until golden brown.

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Pimento Cheese


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I have the luxury of having a July birthday.  When I was in elementary school this seemed like a tragedy at first.  Not having a birthday during the school year where everyone could celebrate me was horrible.  Until I realized the trick of it.  I learned that if I began celebrating my birthday in May, before school ended, I could continue celebrating all summer long.  And because my family is so spread out, as we made our summer travels to visit everyone, I could celebrate over and over again.

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One of the nice things about birthdays is that you can ask people to do certain things for you, and because it’s your birthday, they always do.  The same concept applies once you’ve left the nest.  Everytime I visit home, my parents make my favorite foods, something that used to be confined to my birthday.  I ask for certain things from each person for my birthday (or now, visits home).  My mother makes me lemon chicken and her delicious mashed potatoes.  My father makes me brunswick stew, or chili, or oysters during the winter and a tomato sandwich from home grown tomatoes during the summer.  My grandmother used to make me two things.  First, she would make me a blueberry mountain pie.  Second, she would make me my very own tub of pimento cheese, that I didn’t have to share with anyone.

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Pimento cheese is one of those foods that is inherently southern.  The appeal is hard to explain to people who don’t grow up eating it, and a lot of the time people just don’t like it.  There are variations (and I beg you never to try the store bought stuff), but essentially it includes extra sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos.  Some people add garlic, horseradish, dill pickles, and even mustard.  But I’m a pimento purist.

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When I was a kid, pimento cheese was also one of the things that I could help make.  These days a lot of people will throw the ingredients in a food processor and call it a day.  But making pimento cheese is an experience, like snapping green beans, that promotes relaxing and story telling.  My grandmother would combine the ingredients in a plastic bag and then let me sit on the counter and squish them with my fingers while we talked and she cooked other things.  Or while we sat on the front porch of the Swamphouse.  It’s a fool proof system, you can’t over-combine the ingredients.  And the benefits of passing on a tradition will completely outweigh the time saved with a food processor.

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Pimento Cheese

2-3 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

4 ounces diced pimentos (in a jar)

2 tbsp mayonnaise (or light mayo)

Begin by grating your cheese.  I recommend a medium size grate, not the smallest, but not the big chunks.  Start with two cups of cheese, and add the last cup as you mix it, depending on what you like.  I like my spread cheesy, so I use the full three cups.  It’s really your preference.  After you’ve shredded your cheese, dump into a gallon ziplock bag.

Partially drain the pimentos and add them to the bag.  Scoop in the mayonnaise and zip the bag- make sure you get as much air out as possible.

Use your hands to roll the ingredients between your fingers until it’s totally incorporated.  Add in extra cheese as you need it.

When you’re done, snip the corner off the bag and squeeze the spread out like it’s icing in a pastry bag.  Serve with crackers, on a sandwich, or on cold uncooked veggies.

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