The Southern Cheese Dip–Pimento Cheese

My sister came to Charleston, for her first time, this weekend to visit and I was so excited to give her the real Charleston experience.  That entails drinks on Shem Creek, visist to Sullivan’s Island, the beach, The Battery, Rainbow Row, Broad Street, shrimp and grits and of course pimento cheese.  Pimento cheese is a southern snack and it is delicious.  I knew when Kara was getting in on a late flight she would be hungry and this would be the prefect welcome snack.

Pimento cheese is a chunky dip that normally has cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and pimentos.  I found my recipe from The Glass Onion by Chef Sarah O’Kelley.  This version has mayo, pimentos, green onions, cayenne pepper, salt, paper and a dash of hot sauce.  It is the best pimento cheese I’ve had in Charleston yet.  It is the perfect consistency and full of flavor.

Pimento Cheese by The Glass Onion

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Lowcountry Livin’

Lowcountry–is spelled correctly, that is not a typo so ignore the red squiggle under it.  It is an actual word down here in South Carolina.  It is the region along the coast including the Sea Islands; such as the more well known Sullivan’s Island, Folly Island and James Island.  In the lowcountry shrimp and grits are a staple food.  You can basically find it on any menu.  One item you don’t typically find is creole, because creole is a more typical Louisiana  staple.  But there is a little company in Charleston that is trying to make a name for South Carolina in creole.

Carolina creole is a sweeter sauce than typical creole but it is still packed with tons of spices and flavors.  When I first stuck a spoon in the jar and snuck a taste I literally had to say “wooh.”  The flavors merry and compliment each one so well that your taste buds breath is taken away.  I made it with the white rice and shrimp and I couldn’t stop eating it.  I made enough for a few dinners and ate it all in one sitting.

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Gettin’ Down and Gritty With The South

What is more southern than shrimp and grits?  Nothing is right.  And what better to finish off a shrimp and grits meal than with a key lime pie.  Nothing is right again.  I knew this had to be the first meal I made for the new roommates in Charleston.

I’ve only had a bite here or there of grits in my life time and I’m a fan but not a die hard one.  The recipe I used was a Bobby Flay recipe.  It was super easy and fast, and of course delicious.  You use lemon juice as the sauce and it balances so nicely with the sharp cheddar cheese grits. I’m becoming a more serious fan every day.

My friend gave me the key lime pie recipe and it is absolutely delicious.  I was hesitant about the meringue topping but it compliments the lime filling perfectly.  I don’t have my Kitchen Aid mixer with me because trying to get that thing on an airplane would’ve been ridiculous, so I whipped the egg whites by hand.  Even with help from my friend Becky, sadly I have to admit my arm was sore the next day. If I ever thought Julie Child would’ve been proud of me for moments before I was wrong this was for sure the moment she approved of.  Also don’t wimp out and buy store bought crust, the homemade crust was well worth the extra effort.

Shrimp and Grits Recipe

Key Lime Pie Recipe from Kyle Heironimus

Ingredients:
1 14oz can sweeten condensed milk
3 eggs
3 to 5oz of key lime juice
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup of sugar
1 pie crust (your choice)

Crust:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
1/4 cup sugar
6 tbs (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl. Press into a 9-inch pie pan, making sure the sides and the bottom are an even thickness. Bake for 10 minutes until firm and golden. Allow to cool completely.

Filling:
Separate 3 egg yolks from whites.  Save the whites for the meringue (make sure to get no yolk in the whites).
Wisk 3 egg yolks, sweeten condensed milk, and 3 to 5oz of key lime juice (to taste) in a bowl.  More than 5oz of key lime juice will not be good, so don’t do it.
Pour filling into pie crust.

Meringue:
Use egg beater on high to beat egg whites until they are foamy.
Add vanilla extract and cream of tartar and continue to beat egg whites.
Mix in sugar gradually while continuing to beat egg whites.
Beat egg whites until ridges form on the top.
Spoon meringue evenly onto top of filling in pie crust.

Bake:
Put in oven at 350° for 15 minutes or until the meringue is golden brown on the tips.
Remove from oven and let cool down at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Refrigerate for at least 12 hours (24 is better).

 

 

The most important part about making grits is when you put the grits in the water.   You must stir out all the lumps then, otherwise they will be in there in the end.

 

 

 

 

 

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We’re Going To The Fair Y’all!

 

Can you imagine a world where you can eat fried cookie dough and wash it down with fried kool aid?  Or fried butter and fried autumn pie are options for dessert?  Well brace yourself because this world exists.  What I have just described is the Texas State Fair.  I am used to going to many a fairs in my day being that I was in … cough…  4-H… cough.  So I’ve tasted the typical fried foods such as the elephant ear and the even crazy out there fried pickle, but the Texas State Fair leaves little to the fried food imagination.

First thing to say about this fair is it is such a big deal that my company let us out early to attend.  Gitty with excitement I packed up early and headed to the fair. We walked into the fair and it seemed pretty typical with rides but it was bigger and better.  It wasn’t the normal dirt ground, horse barn fair I’m familiar with, the grounds were cement with cool buildings that had tile murals on them.  You can’t go in without noticing the infamous Big Tex.  Kinda creepy and you may start to get weary of this fair but then you’ll see the Fletchers stand where you can find legendary corn dogs and any fear you have will melt away.  The corn dog is sweet and savory all in one bite.  Add some zing from the mustard, a must in my opinion, and you’ve reached perfection! At this point you’ve been swept off your feet to fairy fried food land.

 

After walking through the park, reading a few of the menus I felt as if I should be walking around sipping on a cup of pepto-bismol.  We tried fried Oreo, snickers and cookie dough.  The Oreos were very light if you can believe it;  these were my favorite of those three. We also had deep fried Frito pie and buffalo chicken in a flapjack, the winner of the best taste award and the minute you take a bite of it you know why.  They start with a strip of buffalo chicken, coat with flapjack batter, roll in jalapeño bread crumbs, fry and serve on a skewer with syrup as a dipping sauce.  Seriously amazing spicy, sweet and juicy all at the same time.  This is reason enough to go to the state fair but then we found the greatest thing yet, fried butter.  When I was paying for my fried butter I felt Julia Child smiling down upon me.  Half the reason to buy fried butter is to figure out what the heck it is. After trying it, my assumption is that it is a frozen cube of butter dipped in batter then deep-fried. You have the choices of savory garlic powder or sugar and cinnamon; I chose the sweet one.  You bite in and it is doughy, then pure rich savoryness of the butter.  You have to be careful though because sometimes you can get a bigger chunk of butter and when my sister took a bite melted butter poured out all over her face.  But mine tasted exactly how fried butter should.

So I guess things are bigger in Texas and dare I say better?

 

-Fried Oreo-

 

-Fried Butter-

Photos courtesy of John Tagle

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