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Men At Work are one of those ’80s bands I don’t often think of until a random track shows up in a playlist. Essentially a three hit wonder, they are probably more famous for being from Australia than their actual musical output. I have no idea really why this is `except perhaps that whole “land down under” hit. They introduced “vegemite” and “chunder” U.S. listeners of Top 40 AM Radio. Colin Hay would go on to make a cameo – doing an acoustic version of this recipe inspiration – in one of my favorite Scrubs episodes. I feel if you are a certain age today, you may never have been a big Men At Work fan but you still have a soft spot in your musical heart for their catchy pop hits.
When I started thinking about a pimento cheese recipe, my mind immediately went to “Boyz II Pimento” then Cherie suggested, “Pimento At Work”. Pimento cheese is an iconic Southern U.S. dish (even though it originated in NYC). Relative to Brooklyn, the Southen U.S. is the “land down under.” The choice for a title was obvious.
When I first started making pimento cheese, I quickly learned commercially made pimiento peppers are wicked expensive and really nothing more than pickled red peppers. As I was running a BBQ joint at the time, I chose to smoke roast some red peppers to make my pimento cheese. These days, if I have the grill going I’ll roast up some peppers for cheese, but usually, just roast them on my stove’s gas flame or in the oven if I’m really lazy. There is really no need for the expense of jarred peppers, and when roasted on the grill you’ll get a nice added smokiness to the cheese.
You will want to make the pimento cheese a day ahead. Like many dishes perfected in the South, great pimento cheese requires a bit of patience. Allowing a day to cure lets the flavors come together and the spread to firm up.
This recipe will make more than enough pimento cheese for several tacos. I find a couple tablespoons on each tortilla will do fine. Leftover cheese is great on crackers or used for Running With The Deviled Eggs.
I had considered just cheese, jalapenos, and scallions with a bit of sauce, but then I discovered some leftover Cauliflower Taco Crumble in the fridge. This is one of my new taco/vegetarian obsessions. Riced cauliflower, finely chopped Baby Bella mushrooms, and taco seasoning baked in the oven. The result has the mouthfeel and taste of midwest taco ground beef without the grease. It also keeps brilliantly in the fridge. Seeing how it was there, I saw no reason to not heat some up and toss it into this mix.
This is one of those rare times where an Ugly Delicious dish and its song inspiration intersect a little too perfectly. As tacos go, this one is definitely a bit of an overkill. A delicious messy overkill, but overkill nonetheless.
PIMENTO AT WORK
Pimento cheese, cauliflower taco crumbles, Rock Candy Jalapenos, Chamoy, taco sauce, Tajin, & scallions on flour tortillas
Makes 3 tacos
3 flour tortillas
Pimento cheese (see recipe below)
Cauliflower Taco Crumble
Rock Candy Jalapenos (or pickled jalapenos)
Taco sauce (see recipe below)
1 scallion, whites and greens sliced
Toast the tortillas in a skillet or over an open flame with tongs.
Spread two tablespoons of pimento cheese on each tortilla. Top with 1 1/2 tablespoons of cauliflower taco crumbles, some jalapenos, a drizzle of taco sauce, a drizzle of Chamoy, a few sprinkles of Tajin, and finish with a scattering of scallions.
Grab a couple of napkins – it’s about to get messy!
Yield: 1 pint
1/2-pound cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mayo
1 roasted red peppers
1 tablespoon Rock Candy Jalapenos (or pickled jalapenos or pickle relish)
1/3 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/3 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Roast the red peppers on the stove, in the oven or – ideally – on a grill with a bit of wood smoke until the skin is charred. Place the roasted peppers in a paper bag (or cover them in a bowl) and let them steam a bit. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, remove seed and set aside.
Finely shred the cheddar cheese.
Place the roasted red pepper and jalapeno or relish in a food processor. Chop until they are almost a paste consistency. Add the shredded cheese, mayo, Worcestershire, yellow mustard & spices.
Blend until it forms a spread – occasionally scraping down the sides. It will appear to be a bit thin and watery. FEAR NOT! Place in a storage container and put in the refrigerator several hours or (even better) overnight. Your patience will be rewarded with a true Southern treat!
NOTE: While a food processor is an optimal tool for this recipe, it is not necessary. Just finely shred the cheese and finely mince the red pepper and jalapeno. Mix everything thoroughly with a spoon. You will not get as smooth of a spread but it will still be delicious.
Makes about a half cup
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon Valentina hot sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk to thoroughly combine. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.