Baked Pimento Cheese and Sausage

A number-one seller at the Boiler Room, this crowd-pleasing dish is a great option to bring to any party. 

For pimento cheese:
2 cups grated sharp yellow cheddar (about 10 ounces)

2 cups grated aged white cheddar (about 10 ounces)

1/2 cup finely diced roasted red peppers or pimentos

1/3 cup crushed canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes pulsed in a food processor

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

For baked dip:
1 pound fresh sausage, cooked and crumbled
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

For the pimento cheese:
 Combine the cheeses, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, mayonnaise, sour cream and hot sauce in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Process for about 30 seconds on low till you have a slightly creamy cheese spread. Taste, add the salt if you wish, and paddle 10 seconds more. Chill till you’re ready to use.

For the baked pimento cheese and sausage: 
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the cold pimento cheese and the cooked, very well drained and cooled sausage.

Press it down into a 1-quart baking dish or 8-inch cast-iron skillet and top with the panko crumbs. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. The breadcrumbs will not necessarily brown; they are there more to provide texture and to soak up some of the grease that rises to the top. (If you want that color, turn on the broiler for the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking. Watch carefully!) When the baked cheese is done, it will be bubbling around all the edges.

Serve this with saltines, Ritz crackers, or toast. I like some pickles on the sides.

Note: Using high-quality cheese makes a big difference here. At the very least, do not use pre-shredded cheese from a bag.

Yield: 10-12 servings

From “Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South,” by Vivian Howard (Little Brown, 2016)