Our two part Derby Day interview with Kentucky thoroughbred racehorse farm chef Amber Huffman turned into a somewhat sporadic, alebit polite (well, almost polite) conversation about mint juleps (“Yuck!”), California wine entrepreneur Jess Jackson, her former boss (“such a wonderful man”), and a few California-Bourbon County line blunders. Which — of course — gets us to pimiento cheese.
“We had a couple in from New York in recently, and I served them pimiento cheese,” says Huffman. “She'd never had pimiento cheese and thought it was so exotic, couldn't believe it was just cheese and mayonnaise. But what could be better than cheese and mayonnaise?” Jalapeño pimiento cheese, of course. Turn the page for Huffman's recipe, and her theory on puppy love (she is marrying the farm's gardener). Hint: It's all about bacon.
“Mr. Jackson was a big dog fan,” recalls Huffman (he passed away a few weeks ago). “People at the farm tell me that the dogs love me because I'm a huge animal lover, which is true. But c'mon [laughs], I also always smell like food! One of [Jackson's] dogs was looking at me the other day with those sweet eyes, and I said, 'I know what you're thinking… That's the pork lady! The bacon and sausage lady!' My feet are a great place to be if you're a dog because you're going to get a little bacon grease raining on you here and there.” For the rest of us, Huffman's kitchen is a pretty great place to be tomorrow on Derby Day, too. You can bet they'll be a bowl or two of pimiento cheese polished off long before the final stretch.
Jalapeño Pimento Cheese
From: Amber Huffman
Serves: 8 to 10 as an appetizer
Note: Huffman says the secret to this crazy easy classic dip is freshly grated cheese, so resist the urge to buy packaged grated cheeses. Huffman prefers Hellman's or Duke's mayonnaise (the latter can be tricky to find outside the South). Serve the pimento cheese between two slices of white (no wheat!) sandwich bread, as a dip for crudites, spread for crackers and hamburger topping. Or sure, why not mixed into hard boiled egg yolks for deviled eggs or macaroni and cheese? Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
8 ounces mild cheddar cheese, freshly grated
8 ounces Colby cheese, freshly grated
7 ounce jar diced pimientos, drained
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons pickled jalapeño , chopped
3 tablespoons pickling juice from the jalapeños
1. Combine all ingredients and stir very well.