Pimento cheese can be as simple as grated cheddar cheese, jarred pimento peppers, and store-bought mayonnaise. But lots of other ingredients often get thrown into the mix—like cream cheese, grated yellow onion, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, ground cayenne, and toasted pecans. Even the pimentos themselves often get swapped out for other peppers.
Not using pimentos seems to defeat the whole purpose, I realize, but there’s more precedent for this than you’d think. Roasted bell peppers (either from scratch or store-bought) are a common substitute. One of my favorite pimento cheese versions, from Beasley’s Chicken and Honey in Raleigh, N.C., uses green poblanos. Whatever pepper you love is fair game—for me, that’s Peppadews. If you can’t get ahold of them, pickled cherry peppers make a good substitute. Either way, pickled peppers add lots of crunch and vibrance.
This Big Little pimento cheese introduces one more unexpected ingredient—boiled potatoes—and, in the process, turns into a newfangled potato salad that’s more than the sum of its parts.
This is one of our Big Little Recipes, our weekly column all about dishes with big flavor and little ingredient lists. Do you know (and love) a recipe that’s low in ask, high in reward? Let us know in the comments. —Emma Laperruque
6 as a side
kosher salt, plus more to taste
red or Yukon potatoes, cut into 1½-inch chunks
(14-oz) jar hot Peppadew peppers, drained and vinegar reserved
Combine 3 quarts of water and the 3 tablespoons of salt, and bring to a boil. Carefully add the potatoes and cook—adjusting the heat to maintain a confident simmer or timid boil—for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they’re knife-tender.
Drain the potatoes, then spread into a single layer on a plate or sheet pan, sprinkle with salt, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of peppadew vinegar.
While the potatoes cool to warm, finely chop the peppadews. Add to a big bowl, along with the mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons of peppadew vinegar. Stir to combine, then stir in the cheese.
When the potatoes are just barely warm, gently fold them into the pimento cheese mixture. Taste and adjust the vinegar, mayo, and salt as needed. Eat right away or refrigerate for later.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.