A touch of bourbon makes the difference


If pimento cheese is already part of your life, then you are blessed for sure. If not, get ready for life to get a little bit better.

And get ready for one of the best burgers of your life.

It's dangerous ground for a Yankee like me to start messing around with a Southern recipe like pimento cheese. This may well not be how you (or your mom or grandma) make it. But I've done a bit of research now and a bit of testing, and I humbly submit this version for your consideration.

Don't use pre-grated cheese for this - freshly grated cheese tastes better and makes the mixture adhere together better. Talented Southern chef Griff Day shared his secret ingredient with me: He uses a splash of bourbon in his pimento cheese, and that little trick really seems to add some depth and extra flavor to my version as well. If you don't have smoked paprika on hand, you can sub in regular paprika, or just skip it.

Make this at least one day ahead to allow the flavors to meld. Serve leftovers (there will be leftovers, and you will not be sorry about that) with crackers.

Hey, by the way - I would still like to hear how you or your mom or dad or Aunt Matilda makes their pimento cheese. Seriously - I have yet to meet a version of this dish that I don't love!


Servings: 6

Start to finish: 45 minutes (this doesn't include the minimum one day of refrigeration for the pimento cheese)

Pimento Cheese Spread:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon bourbon

1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Large pinch cayenne pepper

1/2 pound grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 7-ounce jar pimentos, drained and minced

Kosher salt to taste


1 1/2 pounds ground chuck (about 80/20)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

6 hamburger buns, to serve, toasted if desired

Sliced tomatoes, onions and lettuce to serve (optional)

In a mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, cream cheese, onion, Worcestershire sauce, bourbon, Sriracha, smoked paprika and cayenne. Stir in the cheddar cheese and pimentos, season with salt to taste, and add more hot sauce if desired. Pack into a container and refrigerate for at least one day, and up to seven.

Place the ground beef in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and use your hands to mix in the seasonings.

Form all of the meat into six equal-size patties, making the edges as neat as you can. Use your fingers to make an indentation in the middle of each patty about 1 to 1-1/2 inches wide and about 1/2-inch deep. The burgers will swell a bit during cooking, and therefore end up flat, not rounded (which would make any toppings slide off).

Preheat a grill to medium-high. Grill the burgers for about 4 minutes on each side, or until they are cooked as you like them. The FDA recommends an internal temperature of 160 degrees F for cooked ground meat, but you may decide differently.

Place each burger on the bottom of a bun, top the burger with a generous spoonful (about a heaping tablespoon) of Pimento Cheese, and let everyone top with the tomatoes, onions and lettuce as they please.

Nutrition information per serving: 535 calories; 331 calories from fat; 37 g fat (14 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 102 mg cholesterol; 742 mg sodium; 24 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 26 g protein.