Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Start: Sliders for Homework and a Lesson in Pimento Cheese

I'm a little ashamed at my absence from el blogeriono.  Truth is, I've finally started my new job as Garde Manger Cook at Tavern, opening soon in Monroe, CT!  Woo!!! Garde Manger is basically the salads/cold apps/dessert station. For the past few weeks we've basically been playing in the kitchen, testing out recipes and perfecting standard pub food with a little flair.  It pretty neat to be able to cook all day for my job!  Of course, I haven't just been making salads for two weeks...I've learned how to make all sorts of things that I never tried making on my own, like bread pudding, lobster salad(that was traumatic), even things as simple as sloppy joes for all those joe plumbers that go to a restaurant and order a sloppy joe (wt?).  I'm learning A LOT and it's great so far!
You'd think I'm done cooking for the day when I get home from work, but that's the beauty of doing something I love- I still like to cook when I get home!  Some of the recipes I can't quite ace at work I bring home and make as homework.  Luckily, I have a personal food Hoover named Drew to give me some feedback :)  A couple of weeks ago the boss asked us to come up with some ideas for sliders, so I wanted to do something Mediterranean, because summer always puts me in the mood for that kind of food, and something from the homeland: pimento cheese!  I tried a couple of variations out on Drew and his parents.  Surprisingly, we all had a different favorite!
First, I went for the lamb sliders.  Basically, they are glorified meatballs, but whatever.  I took ground lamb, chopped up some fresh parsley, dill and oregano (about a palm full of each, use your judgement), one or two minced cloves of garlic and salt and pepper.  On a couple of sliders I threw in some crumbled feta into the meat patties, all mixed in so when they cooked all that moisture and saltiness would just melt into the meat-mmmm!  On the others, I left the feta on top, like a traditional cheeseburger.  Once they came off the grill I topped them off with some tzatziki sauce.  Store bought or homemade, Tzatziki is sooo good as a condiment, dressing, a dip, whatever!  I doused the buns in that tart, creamy tzatziki, and topped them off with sliced cucumber and red onion.  SO GOOD.  I could eat lamb burgers, sliders, meatballs  all the time!  My personal favorite was with the feta mixed in, but to each their own.  These are must try burgers!
The Pimento Cheese burgers were my other creation, mostly because I was craving pimento cheese.  Pimento cheese is so delicious, trust me.  I know, I shouldn't have to make a case for it, but honestly, it's not the most appetizing thing to look at.  It's congeal-cheesiness with little peppers tossed in.  If you can get past the look of the stuff you will fall in love with this classic southern spread.  To make the pimento cheese you need:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups grated Cheddar and Colby Jack cheese (basically you can use whatever creamy mild cheese to pair with the Cheddar, any kind of Jack for example)
1/4 to 1/2 Cup Mayo- add more if needed
4 oz. jar diced pimentos*
Dash of Garlic Powder
*It's up to you whether you want to drain the pimentos or not, I've done it both ways and found that it turns out just as good each way.  When using drained you may need more mayo.

Throw all those ingredients together in a bowl and mix.  If you want, you can use a food processor or just plain old elbow grease to mix it up.  If you want a spicier version (my favorite) add a few pickled jalapenos, a dash or two of Tabasco and some black pepper.  Zippy!
So back to the sliders: prepare your standard beef sliders, seasoned with salt and pepper or your personal special spice blend.  For the two different pimento cheese sliders I decided to do one stuffed, one smothered.  Traditionally, pimento cheese burgers are absolutely covered in pimento cheese.  Like, dripping off in huge globs.  That one is pretty self explanatory and believe me, it was super delicious.  For the stuffed sliders you have to make two really thin little patties that you sandwich together after placing a dollop of pimento cheese in the middle.  Just pinch the edges together to get the meat to re-meld before placing them on the grill.  The cheese starts to ooze out as it melts, so good!
End result: I got an A+.

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