A few weeks back, on Twitter, Grub Report shared what seemed to us to be a pretty good idea: They took a recent gift of Pimento Cheese, made a sandwich out of it, and fried that sandwich in Nueske’s bacon fat. People come to us with terrific ideas for our bacon – and its leavings – on a fairly regular basis, but this particular sandwich really stood out for a couple of reasons:
1) It’s straight-up comfort food. In Wisconsin, this has been a particularly wicked winter, both in terms of temperature and general cold-weather malaise. Cabin fever kicked in hard and early. It seems like – all New Year’s resolutions aside – comfort food is attractive to most everyone in our state right about now, and if it’s warm, cheesy, and wonderful, it’s a winter winner.
2) Pimento Cheese is amazing. While it’s truly a Southern thing, if you look at the ingredients, you would swear that a Wisconsinite must have created the first batch, save the more spicy elements. Shredded sharp cheddar cheese, real mayo (paramount importance!), pimentos and various other zesty, savory ingredients, like worchestershire or your favorite hot sauce, all mixed up and equaling one big, tasty amalgam of things we like to eat. There are loads of pimento cheese recipes out there but we ordered the good stuff from our friends at Zingerman’s. They make this right over in Ann Arbor. It’s worth noting that Grub Report used the pimento cheese from Zingerman’s for their sandwich, too. If you are intent on making your own, start here.
3) It’s grilled in bacon drippings. Nueske’s Bacon drippings. Since we smoke our bacon for quite a bit longer than your standard supermarket brands, you won’t see as much grease left in your pan after cooking our bacon; a lot of it cooks out in the smokehouse. If you cook up a pan or two of our smoky slices, you’ll still have enough drippings for a decent batch of these sandwiches… and some bacon to enjoy, on the side. If you really want to guild the lily, you could add the bacon slices to this sandwich, but the faint smokiness of the drippings is really enough flavor and doesn’t compete too much with the pimento cheese… but do what you will! People have long used our rich, smoky bacon drippings for popping popcorn and even basting other meats during the roasting process, but as the “butter” in a modified grilled cheese? We had to try it.
We took some liberties with the basic idea for this sandwich that Grub Report shared with us and added avocado in the form of guacamole. We also slipped in some sliced tomatoes. Admittedly, tomatoes are ghosts of their summer selves right now, but they still added some nice acid, color, and much-needed structure to this otherwise somewhat sloppy sandwich. Grub Report also suggested layering the pimento cheese between two thin slices of cheese before frying your sandwich and, since we Wisconsinites generally have not qualms about putting extra cheese on things, that’s exactly what we did.
Warning: You do need to put a tarp down on the table before you eat one of these, but it’s worth it. Wear short sleeves, too, and have about a dozen napkins handy.
~ A loaf of crusty, chewy sourdough bread
~ A pan’s worth of bacon drippings (we used our own, from Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon)
~ Pimento Cheese
~ Thinly-sliced Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese
~ Tomato Slices
1) Slice your bread and apply a thin layer of (warm) bacon drippings to the side of each slice that will be touching the pan. Have your tomatoes and non-pimento cheese sliced and your guacamole and pimento cheese ready to go.
2) Warm your pan over medium/medium-low heat.
3) Place a thin cheese slice on the first slice of bread and spread a layer of pimento cheese about a quarter-inch thick onto the cheese slice. Top with another thin slice of cheese and another piece of bread, bacon grease sides out.
4) Place the sandwich gently into the pan and cover. After 2 or 3 minutes, check the progress. If the underside of your sandwich is nicely browned, it’s time to turn your sandwich over. Avoid flipping this sandwich more than once, if possible, or you will start to lose your warm cheese filling.
5) Once both sides are nicely browned and the cheeses are melting nicely, take your sandwich out of the pan, place it on a plate, and open the top of you sandwich. Quickly spread on a layer of guacamole and layer in a few tomato slices and put the top slice of bread back in its place. No one likes a hot tomato in their sandwich, so that’s why we do this at the end. If you get really good at this, your cheese will be just the right temperate that you can pry apart the layer without disturbing the pimento cheese below, but it might take a couple tries to get there.
6) Serve immediately and remember those napkins!
It’s not, perhaps, the most aesthetically pleasing sandwich we’ve ever laid eyes on, but it makes up for its looks in all-out fantastic flavor. This comfort food is rich and smoky from the cheese and bacon drippings, faintly spicy from the pimento cheese, crispy on the outside with a warm, melted interior. Thanks, Grub Report; this sandwich has everything we need to keep us going in the dead of this harsh winter.