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This is the second Nancy Sinatra song to make the Music & Food list. I’ve already made my case that Nancy + Lee Greenwood = Surreal Brilliance. That’s undeniable. This time, I want to take a bit more controversial stance especially as this is being written & posted during the 2020 COVID lockdown & election cycle.
And that stance is about nepotism.
Look, any music history nerd knows the ONLY reason Nancy Sinatra had a recording career was her father. Without his influence and power, she quickly would have been relegated to the cut-out bin and a forgotten blip in pop culture. That Nancy would attempt to cover her father’s iconic recordings only adds to the overall audacity of blatant nepotism. Most of her non-Greenwood recordings are cheesy as hell and in a SERIOUSLY not good way. Had Daddy not been propping her up and deflecting criticism, Nancy would have gone nowhere fast. Sound familiar in 2020?
So why choose Nancy’s cover as the theme for this recipe? Simple, it’s without a doubt the cheesiest cover and this recipe is a sort of cheesy ice cream sandwich cover. Don’t get me wrong, I actually kind of dig the awfulness of Nancy’s version of “Nice ‘n’ Easy.” It strips out the smooth late-night swagger of her dad’s version and swaps in a sort of ’60s easy-listening vibe. And that swap sends this into the cheesy territory needed to intersect with this recipe.
During the 2020 NYC Lockdown, I decided to start a little pimento cheese side hustle. I’ve been making this recipe for years at parties and bars, but I decided to reach out and see who was interested in picking up some custom orders. Somewhere in the midst of this, summer kicked in and I started thinking about ice cream. I’m lucky to have a very nice 2-quart Italian ice cream maker that was a splurge when I actually had money. Somehow, and I’m fairly sure adult beverages were involved, Cherie (of We Can Tour That fame) and I started thinking about ice cream. That led us (again likely through adult beverages) to wondering if we could make pimento cheese ice cream (because you know it’s all about the side hustle in 2020).
After a bit of research, the answer was yes – you CAN make pimento cheese ice cream.
I can’t truly describe the result here. It TASTES exactly like pimento cheese. All the savoriness, but the mayo gets swapped for a much colder custard. It’s a bit of a mind fuck. You know you’re eating ice cream, but it really tastes like a spoonful of very cold pimento cheese. So given this dissonance, the only logical step was to create an ice cream sandwich.
My family is from the South. Granted, pimento cheese was actually invented in NYC, but let’s just accept it’s a Southern thing. Southern service of pimento cheeses usually entails spreading it on Ritz Crackers because they are buttery brilliance and butter is the national food of the South. To be VERY clear, only ORIGINAL Ritz Crackers. This is NOT the time to get all multi-grain low sodium artisan flavored on your snack. Accept nothing other than OG Ritz!
So, if I’ve got pimento cheese ice cream, and I have OG Ritz Crackers, then, of course, I’m making Pimento Cheese Ice Cream Sandwiches! Here’s where things get interesting from a culinary standpoint. I thought the ice cream on its own was intriguing but ultimately too “stunt cooking” for my taste. Sort of like a restaurant trying too hard to be “edgy” by making fucked-up flavor combos.
Sandwich that same “trying too hard” ice cream between two Ritz Crackers, and – yeah – I kinda get it. There occurs some culinary magic between the ice cream and the cracker that makes for the perfect bite dessert meets snack. It’s totally savory with a slightly sweet undertone. I honestly believe it would crush as a perfect end of Southern meal or perhaps even a killer surprising amuse bouche.
In the end, I’ll likely never make these again. I love the idea and the ice cream was pretty simple, but honestly savory ice cream kinda defeats the purpose of having ice cream, and a savory ice cream sandwich only exacerbates the issue.
ICE ‘N’ CHEESY
Pimento cheese ice cream sandwiches on Ritz crackers
Pimento Cheese Ice Cream (see recipe below)
Use a biscuit cutter the size of a Ritz cracker to cut ice cream rounds. Sandwich between two crackers.
PIMENTO CHEESE ICE CREAM
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts
For the custard
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
6 large egg yolks
For the pimento cheese
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 roasted red pepper
1 tablespoon candied jalapenos
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.
In a large bowl, grate the cheddar cheese. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the red pepper, jalapenos, Worcestershire, Dijon, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and salt. Blend until smooth. Pour over the grated cheese and stir to thoroughly combine.
Warm the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks. Scrape the warmed egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula. It should be thick enough that your finger leaves a definite trail through the coating on the spatula that does not flow back together. Do not let the custard boil.
Pour the custard through a strainer and stir it into the pimento cheese mix. Keep stirring until the cheese is melted. Transfer the bowl to the fridge to chill thoroughly.
Freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Chill in the freezer for at least 4 hours before eating.
Serve as Ritz Cracker ice cream sandwiches.