Photography: Nick Simonite

An American original gets a smoky Southwestern kick for Independence Day or any day.

Although sometimes called “the pâté of the South,” pimento cheese is a Northern invention from the turn of the 20th century that coincided with the introduction of processed cheeses (specifically cream cheese), the arrival of canned red peppers or pimiento from Spain, and the ready-made commercial food market. Over the last century, pimento cheese has been adapted by chefs and families alike for celebrations large and intimate

Inspired by his mother-in-law’s family recipe and nodding to one of the original Green Pastures property owners Mary Faulk Koock’s cooking and Southern roots, chef Joshua Thomas’ pimento cheese at Mattie’s holds a boldly savory twist. It doesn’t even contain pimentos at all! Instead, Thomas uses red bell peppers grilled over mesquite for a smoky Southwestern kick evoking a flavor and color similar to those found in traditional pimento cheese. It’s perfect for any party platter — like, let’s say, the red, white, and blue one in the back of the corner cabinet — or sandwich.

Pimento Cheese

Courtesy Chef Joshua Thomas, Mattie’s, Austin, Texas

(Yields 3½ cups)

1 red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Canola oil
1 pound Irish cheddar, grated
8 ounces mayonnaise
2 tablespoons thyme, fresh and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, ground
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Dash nutmeg

Roast bell pepper over an open mesquite flame or in a 450-degree oven until skin becomes charred all the way around. Place roasted pepper in bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 15 minutes. Once steamed, peel pepper, remove seeds and stem, and finely chop.

Toss whole garlic cloves in canola oil and roast at 350 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes or until garlic browns and softens. Cool, peel, and set aside.

Combine the bell pepper, garlic, grated cheese, and remaining ingredients in medium bowl. Refrigerate and allow flavors to meld for up to 4 – 6 hours.

For more information on Mattie’s or to make reservations, visit the restaurant’s website.

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