Mr. KK and I have always been big fans of visiting Portland, Maine. Aside from the fact that it reminds us a bit of Boston with it’s cobblestone ankle-breaking sidewalks and amazing restaurants (can you say lobstah rolls?), but the beer scene is top notch.
Trips to Portland became a little harder when the Little Mister came along, and as much as we were raising a bar baby, it was getting hard to ignore the stink eye we’d get from the hipsters.
One summer we rented a beach house for the three of us in South Portland, a 10-minute drive over the bridge. We were just close enough to enjoy an afternoon in our favorite city, with the luxury of being walking distance to a great little beach. Our house was conveniently located next to a Scratch Baking Company, a bakery that had somewhat of a cult following. Every morning at 6am people would start lining up waiting for the bakery to open, just to get their hands on their famous bagels. With the line of people came chit chat, so every morning we were up at the crack of dawn listening to everyone in line.
Now, having a husband with a sweet tooth and a toddler who loved all things cake and cookie, being next to the bakery was a very convenient spot for us. I could literally roll out of bed, walk out the front door, and be in line in my pajamas. Not being much a bagel person myself, they had a coffee cake that was to die for.
My favorite item from this bakery, however, was not a baked good at all. Tucked into the cooler with the cream cheese were containers of homemade pimento cheese spread.
Now, if you’re from the south, you are well aware of how life-changing pimento cheese is. If you don’t know what pimento cheese spread is, well, I’m sorry. You’ve barely enjoyed life up until this point.
First off, it’s made with cheese. If you’re a cheese whore like I am, that should be enough of a selling point. Second, it’s cheese mixed with cream cheese. (I mean, COME ON.) But perhaps the best selling point, is that you can eat it on almost anything. Crackers? Sure. Pita chips? My favorite. As a grilled cheese. Woah. Spread on a chicken cutlet on a roll? Shut the front door.
The day I discovered the pimento cheese spread at Scratch Baking Company, my entire vacation changed. I bought a container every single day, and ate the entire thing throughout the day. I had dreams about this pimento cheese. We went back to South Portland a second summer and the first thing I did was go to this bakery and secure pimento cheese for the week.
But you don’t have to live in the south or visit South Portland in order to enjoy pimento cheese. In fact, I have made pimento cheese spread many times (is there anything better to enjoy at a Kentucky Derby Party?). However, I have discovered the best of the best pimento cheese recipe; the créme de le cream cheese, if you will.
And who other to give us this amazing recipe than my girl crush: Ina Garten.
In her latest cookbook Modern Comfort Food, Ina shares her take on this amazing appetizer. In fact, once you make this and serve it, you’ll never need another appetizer recipe again.
Ina’s Spicy Pimento Cheese Spread
Click here for the recipe and a video.
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp granulated onion (not onion powder)
2 large garlic gloves
1 teaspoon celery seed
3/4 cup pickled jalapenos, drained and chopped
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (3 to 4 scallions)
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers, drained (4 ounces)
4 cups shredded sharp while cheddar (10 ounces)
1 tablespoon Sriracha
Crackers and/or crudités for serving
In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, onion, garlic, celery seed and 1/2 tsp salt with a wooden spoon. Add the pickled jalapenos, scallions and red peppers and grated Cheddar. Add the Sriracha and combine. Taste for seasonings and serve with crackers, corn chips or crudités. (Or with my favorite: pita chips).
I highly recommend you make a double batch: one batch for your guests, and the other to hide in the back of your fridge so you can shame it any time no one is looking.