Chile Dulce Con Queso – Pimento Cheese Spread
This is a hearty, delicious chile con queso, chile-cheese spread. Yes, it is another of the “chile con queso” variations. It’s common all across the southern US, known as Pimento Cheese, and it is so beloved that folk get into nasty fights and feuds about the correct ingredients and taste. I love the passionate affinities that food creates!
I retrieved it from my archives this morning because I realized that it is not often noted that the foundational ingredient is Mexican. The “Bell Pepper” is really a Mexican chile called “Chile Dulce” that is native to Yucatán.
This recipe is rich and bold, contrasting the roasted, pungent sweetness of Chile Dulce (red bell pepper or pimento) with really good Cheddar cheese. I add some Chile De Arbol for a slight fiery kick that heightens the taste.
Chile Dulce was taken to Spain by Christopher Columbus. The Spaniards loved the sweet, non-hot taste of this chile, and eventually made it an essential ingredient of their traditional cuisine. They call it Pimentón. By the 1560’s, these chiles had reached the Balkans where they were called peperke or paparka. Hungary was particularly creative in making a home for the Chile Dulce, calling it “Paprika,” and it is now central to Hungarian cuisine.
The name change from “chile” to “pepper” is based on the confusion of the Europeans upon encountering the Mexican chiles. Columbus and others were actually looking for India, so when they landed in the Caribbean and South America they called us “Indians.” The name stuck. Also, the only hot, fiery spice the Spaniards knew was the Black Pepper of India, “Pimienta.” So, they applied that name to the chile, “Pimentón.” And that’s how we now have “Pimento Cheese” instead of what I call it: “Chile Dulce With Cheese.” Hmmm, language and food.
Enough talk. Let’s eat!
Recipe (Makes 3 cups)
1 lb Cheddar Cheese, grated. Use really tasty cheddar.
10 ounces Roasted “Red Bell Peppers,” small dice. Store-bought, usually in a 12-ounce jar.
3/4 cup Mayonnaise. You’re probably not making your own, so buy a high quality brand.
1 Large Chile De Arbol (1/4 tsp) ground to a fine powder using a molcajete or spice grinder
Salt to taste
A generous grind of Black Pepper, “Pimienta”
1. In a large bowl, blend together the mayonnaise and chile de arbol
2. Add the cheddar, the chile dulce, and mix thouroughly using a rubber spatula.
3. Taste, and add a little salt if needed. I usually add about 1/4 tsp, depending on the saltiness of the cheese. Give a good grind with the Black Pepper mill.
3. Cover and let stand in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Before serving, make sure to bring it back to room temperature to release the aroma and flavors.
Serve it as a spread with a variety of crackers or make sandwiches, cut into quarters.
Filippone, P. [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/paprikahistory.htm