Thursday, March 2, 2023

Pimento Cheese Popovers

It was a roasted green beans with sesame seed dressing recipe from Brown Sugar Kitchen that turned me into a big fan of Tanya Holland’s. That seemingly simple dish was so surprisingly delicious, as was everything else I made from the book, that I was hooked. I was delighted to find her new book Tanya Holland’s California Soul, of which I received a review copy, was also packed with great ideas. This new book shares the stories of several Black culinary entrepreneurs from California. Holland turns to these makers for the best, freshest ingredients for her California-style cooking. I especially enjoyed reading about Black Cowboys in California as well as about Antoine Ellis and Cedric Jefferson who operate Compton Farms offering beef, chicken, sausage, and eggs. Four chapters of recipes correspond to the seasons and reflect her local-sourcing through the year. For each season, there are salads, mains, breakfast dishes, vegetable sides, breads, and sweets. I’m already looking ahead to the summery Cornmeal Dough Pizzette with Grilled Beefsteak Tomaotes, Red Onions, and Whipped Goat Cheese. Our local tomatoes will be here before you know it. Until then, the Smoked Trout Spring Salad with Lemon-Mint Vinaigrette featuring fava beans and asparagus will be perfect. Also in the spring chapter, the Buttermilk Muffins with Cinnamon-Cardamom Streusel sound fantastic. It’s nice to see a good variety of plant-based recipes too like Heirloom Red Beans with Farro and Poblano-Red Onion Relish, Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, and Barbecued Pulled Tofu Sandwiches. From the winter chapter, I didn’t get to the Mustard Barbecue-Roasted Quail yet, but I think that dish could cross seasons as could the Dungeness Crab Beignets. I feel like I should wait for fall, though, for the Fresh Gingerbread Cupcakes with Molasses Buttercream and the Brown Butter “Red Velvet” Beet Bars with Sour Cream Frosting. I was tempted by several of the baked goods in the book, but the first one I made was the Pimento Cheese Popovers. 

The pimento cheese was made first. As I often do, I mixed plant-based “dairy” with regular dairy. I shredded cheddar made with milk from pastured cows and used plant-based cream cheese. Also, for the first time, I used Truff hot sauce with a bit of truffle flavor and became instantly hooked. Those ingredients were mixsed with Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, paprika, minced jalapeno, onion, garlic, pickles, and I added chopped pickled jalapeno. For the popovers, the pan should be heated in the oven while the batter is made. Milk, eggs, salt, and flour are all that’s needed for the batter. It was whisked until frothy. The popover pan was removed from the oven, each cup was brushed with oil, and the batter was added. A spoonful of pimento cheese was added to each cup. The popovers baked at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes and then 15 minutes more at 350 degree F. When they came out of the oven, they were removed from the pan, and a small hole was cut in the bottom of each to allow steam to escape. 

I'm no stranger to savory popovers. I’ve made a shrimp-filled version before too. But regarding pimento cheese, I didn’t really grow up with it. I remember encountering it often once I moved to Texas. It seemed to appear as a non-meat option for sandwiches here and there, but I was always a little ambivalent about it. I can say that this version of pimento cheese is definitely my favorite I’ve ever had, and putting it in a popover is genius. Now, I need to decide what I’m making next from this book.

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