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Baked Pimento Cheese and Sausage

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Baked Pimento Cheese and Sausage
Credit: N

Just after I happened into making blueberry barbecue sauce (another recipe in !) and found my voice, I started thinking about appetizers that spoke of the region. Pimento cheese and crackers came to mind. And although other chefs have done pimento cheese to accolades, I just didn’t think it fully reflected the dip culture Down East. Then I thought of the artery cement my sister Leraine serves on Christmas Eve. Cream cheese, sausage, and Ro-Tel heat in a crockpot till somebody dips it into a Frito Scoop. 

Since its debut at my restaurant , baked pimento cheese and sausage has never gone away. We’ve taken it off the menu, but those in the know have always ordered it, and we’ve obliged them. Now its home is at the , where it’s their number-one seller. They serve the cheese with our homemade saltines. 

Note: Using high-quality cheese makes a big difference here. At the very least, do not use pre-shredded cheese food from a bag. That stuff is often coated with a powdery substance that keeps it from clumping, but it also keeps it from tasting like cheese. 

Vivian Howard’s  is Kitchn’s March pick for our Cookbook Club. See how you can participate here.

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Baked Pimento Cheese and Sausage

YieldServes 1 to 8 (depending on whom you're serving)

Ingredients

For the pimento cheese (makes 3 cups):

  • 2 cups

    grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese (about 10 ounces)

  • 2 cups

    grated aged white cheddar cheese (about 10 ounces)

  • 1/2 cup

    finely diced roasted red peppers or pimentos

  • 1/3 cup

    crushed canned tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes pulsed in a food processor

  • 1/4 cup

    mayonnaise

  • 2 tablespoons

    sour cream

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    hot sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    salt (optional)

For the bake:

  • 3 cups

    pimento cheese

  • 1 pound

    fresh pork sausage, cooked and crumbled (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 2/3 cup

    panko breadcrumbs

  • For serving: saltines, Ritz crackers, toast, and pickles

Instructions

  1. Make the pimento cheese: Combine everything but the salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Process for about 30 seconds on low till you have a slightly creamy cheese spread. Taste, add the salt if you wish, and paddle 10 seconds more. Chill till you’re ready to use.

  2. Make the bake: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Stir together the cold pimento cheese and the cooked, very well drained, and cooled sausage.

  3. Press it down into a 1-quart baking dish or 8-inch cast-iron skillet and top with the panko crumbs. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. The bread crumbs will not necessarily brown; they are there more to provide texture and to soak up some of the grease that rises to the top. When the baked cheese is done, it will be bubbling around all the edges.

  4. Serve this with saltines, Ritz crackers, or toast. I like some pickles on the side.

Recipe Notes

Excerpted from Deep Run Roots, Copyright (c) 2016 by Vivian Howard. Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York.  All rights reserved.

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