PIMENTO CHEESE POTATO SKINS
I’m not from the South. In fact, I’ve never even visited the South. But while there may be thousands of miles between me and some of the world’s best barbecue, one thing the distance hasn’t stopped me from enjoying is the good old-fashioned, southern staple — pimento cheese. Anyone who’s ever had a grilled pimento cheese sandwich knows exactly what I’m talking about.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to sell a recipe for pimento cheese topped potato skins. Afterall, we’re talking about two of our country’s comfort classics married together in one over-the-top finger food. Imagine crispy potatoes crowned with gooey pimento cheese, studded with smoky bacon bits and finished with a scattering of fresh chopped chives. Pretty hard to go wrong there.
It goes without saying that these make the perfect football party hors d’oeuvre. They’re good before a hot bowl of chili and far easier than frying up a batch of wings. But beware — they’re sure to outshine your crudité platter.
PIMENTO CHEESE POTATO SKINS
Everybody has their own technique for baking potatoes, but I like to bake them directly on the oven rack to ensure even heat circulation and a slightly crisp skin. For this recipe I recommend using medium to small russet potatoes as I prefer eating a more manageable sized potato skin that doesn’t require a knife and fork. When slicing the potatoes, make sure to use a long sawing motion with a serrated blade as this will ensure that the delicate skins don’t tear. Finally, you should have more pimento cheese than you need for the skins. Sounds like a good excuse to make one of those grilled cheeses, huh?
- 6 medium to small russet potatoes
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 ounce cream cheese, softened
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 roasted red bell pepper, diced into 1/4-inch piece
- 4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled
- 3 tablespoons chives, chopped
- 1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400°. Pierce each potato a few times with the tines of a fork. Lightly brush each potato with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake the potatoes directly on the rack of the oven for 1 hour, or until tender and cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile make the pimento cheese. In a food processor fitted with the grater attachment, process the cheddar until shredded. Swap out the grater attachment for a standard food processor blade and add in the cream cheese. Pulse a few times to incorporate. Transfer the cheese mixture to a bowl and mix in the crushed red pepper flakes, diced red pepper and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Set pimento cheese aside.
- Preheat broiler. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, use a serrated knife to slice each into three lengthwise sections – you should be left with two shallow ends and a middle portion which you can discard or use in another preparation. Using a small spoon, scoop out the flesh of each skin leaving a 1/4-inch border all the way around.
- Lightly brush the inside of each potato skin with remaining melted butter and season lightly with salt and pepper. Crumble pimento cheese mixture evenly over each potato and sprinkle on bacon bits. Place the potato skins on a foil lined baking sheet and broil until the cheese is melted, bubbling and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove potato skins to platter, sprinkle with chives and serve immediately.
Makes 12 potato skins