At Atlanta's new Empire State South, chef Hugh Acheson is recasting regional Southern dishes such as Frogmore Stew and chicken-fried pork steak with a modern eye. The chef even refreshes pimento cheese--that classic, creamy spread--by using just-roasted red peppers, homemade mayonnaise and smoked paprika. At the restaurant, he serves this "Southern pâté" as an appetizer and on grilled cheese sandwiches that boast a perfect combination of molten filling and crunchy crust. Acheson admits he can't go a week without eating one of these oozing indulgences. Make this once, and you won't be able to either.
Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwiches
Recipe adapted from Hugh Acheson, Empire State South, Atlanta
Yield: 4 sandwiches
8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 loosely packed cups)
1 red bell pepper--roasted, peeled, seeded (or jarred) and finely diced
¼ cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade or Duke's brand)
¾ teaspoon smoked sweet Spanish paprika
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
8 slices soft white bread
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, divided
4 pickled okra spears, for garnish (optional)
1. In a large bowl, mix the cheddar with the roasted red pepper, mayonnaise, paprika, mustard, salt and cayenne until well combined.
2. Spread about 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture onto 1 slice of the bread. Press a second slice of the bread on top of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining bread to make 4 sandwiches. Reserve any remaining pimento cheese for another use.
3. Lightly butter the outside of the sandwiches with 2 tablespoons of the butter. In a medium skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook the sandwiches until the bread is crisp and golden, about 4 minutes per side.
4. Remove the sandwiches from the skillet and let cool slightly. Trim the crusts from the sandwiches, if desired, and place on plates accompanied by the pickled okra, if using. Serve immediately.