I’ll make an admission here that may damage my Southern girl credentials. I am not a football fan. I went to lots of high school football games, but football was the least interesting part of the event. And I didn’t go to a college with a big football program. I am, however, a fan of parties, and if football happens to be going on in the background, that’s fine with me. I do understand how important football is for many people, and I admire the fine art of tailgating. I think any lack of football love on my part is more than made up by my love of Southern cooking. So I’d like to make a contribution to the cause.
This is a bolder version of pimento cheese. And what says Southern tailgate more than that? The smoky richness of this spread is a great complement to dinner off the grill or a barbecue feast. In fact, try melting some on hamburger or drop a dollop onto a pulled shoulder sandwich. I’ve got your interest now, right? But it is fabulous on crackers, even bacon crackers if you want to go all out, or just between two slices of bread.
Most cheese labeled smoked that you find in the dairy case at the grocery is actually “smoke flavored.” I do not like this stuff at all; I think it has a weird metallic aftertaste, a discernible fakeness. But look in the fine cheese section, or hit a gourmet or natural foods market and you will find naturally smoked cheddar cheese. I like a combination of orange and white, but if you can only find one color, so be it. And the same goes for bacon. Look for naturally smoked bacon, not “smoke flavor added.”
Smoky Bacon Pimento Cheese
6 strips of smoked bacon
8 ounces naturally smoked orange cheddar
8 ounces naturally smoked white cheddar
1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos
1 cup of mayonnaise, more or less
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Cook the bacon until crispy and drain on paper towels. Pat off as much grease as possible with paper towels. Finely chop the bacon.
Grate the cheeses together into a large bowl. Stir it together with the bacon pieces and undrained pimentos. Stir in the mayonnaise until you have a consistency that appeals to you, then add the paprika, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Scrape the pimento cheese into a serving bowl and chill for several hours to let the flavors meld. The pimento cheese will keep covered in the fridge for up to five days.
Makes about 1 pound of pimento cheese