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Pimiento Cheese, Hot Mayo and Tuna Melts [split from Boston]

My VA. mom made the best grilled pimento cheese sandwich on seeded rye, with mandatory kosher dills on the side.messiest sandwich you'll ever eat. i've never ever heard mention of grilled pimento cheese since coming north.hmmmmm. major happy face.

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  1. Pimiento cheese sandwiches are 1 of the few menu items at the food stands at the Masters in Augusta, Ga..think they still sell them for $2 or so..part of the charm.

    41 Replies
    1. re: 9lives

      wrinkled nose. you see, for us, grilled was the only way to go!

      1. re: opinionatedchef

        I'll pass your comments to the officials..:) I'd prefer grilled myself but that's not how they've done it for 75 years.

        It's about the history, not the cuisine.

        1. re: 9lives

          Just to clarify, the ham and pimiento cheese sandwich at Cutty's is not, repeat NOT, grilled. Because...piping hot mayonnaise. Ew.

          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

            Never met a southerner that didn't love mayo in any way shape or form... or temp. As in "Please put less cracker on my mayo." But maybe it's so hot in texas that the mayo fixation doesn't hold as much there.

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Well yes, but in a good tuna melt, the bread and cheese are hot but the tuna salad is still cool.

                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                  Not sure how that works without a magical temperature barrier between the cheese and the tuna.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    You grill the bread on one side with the cheese on top (think of a split-open grilled cheese sandwich). When the bread is grilled and the cheese is melted, add the tuna salad, put the two halves together, serve. Ideally with a pickle spear and some cream of tomato soup.

                    Don't know offhand of a specific local diner that does this -- if I'm ordering a tuna salad sandwich, it's usually in club form, not melt -- but it's certainly the tuna melt I'm familiar with. Are tuna melts hot sandwiches (as in assembled and then grilled) hereabouts?

                    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                      This is kind of funny, like arguing the semiotics of funnel cake, but again, with no magic shield between the cheese and the tuna, there will be a heat transfer, meaning the tuna will get hotter and the cheese cooler, likely unmelting in the process, in which case it's a tuna salad with cheese, not a tuna melt.

                      It's like that misbegotten dish (from somewhere awful: Bar Lola, maybe?) where the meatballs were hot and the sauce cold, at least when assembled, and the kitchen was surprised when reviews cited the result as served as being a tepid failure.

                      I'm not looking forward to running this special tuna-melt assembly process idea by my barman at Foley's. I think both he and I like the hot-mayo version just fine.

                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Two words: baked Alaska.

                        If you put cheese on cold tuna salad under a very hot broiler, you'll get hot melted cheese on still-cold salad. If you eat it quickly, there will be minimal heat transfer.

                        1. re: FoodDabbler

                          So, in the tuna melt, what is the analogue to the heat insulation provided by the interior of the meringue (a well-structured foam, perfect for the purpose) to keep the ice cream from melting while the meringue firms up and browns? It's an interesting comparison, but I don't think the physics are the same.

                          I guess I will grant that if you eat it immediately upon its emergence from the broiler, you get a few seconds of uncongealed cheese, but the chances of that happening at my local tavern are pretty small.

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                          1. re: FoodDabbler

                            Yes, that's what puzzles me about the heat-transfer argument -- unless you make a habit of eating your tuna melt 30-45 minutes after it's assembled, I'm not getting this concept that the combination of cold and hot immediately turns to tepid.

                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                              I say we commission J. Kenji Alt-Lopez at Serious Eats to do a heat-loss analysis on this subject. I anticipate a range of results varying with the broiler temperature, cheese melting point, tuna-salad composition and time out of the walk-in, etc. It's a perfect application of food-nerd science.

                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                              1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                Coincidentally, I had a hankering for a tunamelt just this past weekend. My mix was pretty straightforward, tuna, celery, mayo, squirt of dijon, etc. Threw it in the fridge to chill and meld. Yanked it out, slapped it on two slices of bread, slapped some colby-jack on top, threw it under the broiler. Cheese melted, tuna room-temp at the warmest, celery crisp, etc. Sometimes a layer of tomatoes in between the tuna and the cheese can add an additional layer of protection, but is totally unnecessary.

                                But even in rush job situations where I slap room-temp tuna salad on, it is far from tepid and runny when it comes out of the broiler. Still holds together, still retains crispy celery, etc. Never experienced the hot tuna phenomenon (outside of the band).

                                1. re: Nab

                                  My experience exactly. I've made open faced tuna melts many times (using toast as the base) doing what you say without ever experiencing the terror of tepidity.

                                  Perhaps Nathan Myhrvold and his team have done experiments on this, complete with cross-sectional photos? If someone buys me a copy of Modernist Cuisine, I'd be happy to look through it for the answer.

                                  1. re: Nab

                                    until heat stops rising and tuna salad begins appearing as a gas I think we're safe.

                                    1. re: loper

                                      Not to get nerdy on you, but you're talking convection and MC is talking conduction.
                                      (The broiler, to complete the list, is talking radiation.)

                                      1. re: FoodDabbler

                                        Yep, my point is a simple one: if they're touching, their temperatures will tend to converge. That tuna is going to get warmer, the cheese cooler. That doesn't necessarily mean the tuna will get steaming hot, nor the cheese cool enough to solidify again, but you get the drift. My last few tuna melts did not boast cool salad in the middle. Maybe I need to frequent a better class of greasy spoon.

                                        But I am grateful that there's a forum where we can drill down on this particular topic in detail.

                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          As Jenny O. also says above, timing is everything. You need to go to greasy spoons that move more quickly.

                        2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                          Doesn't sound good. I want my pimento cheese cold and my tuna melt hot. I know Bobby Flay (and I love him) does a pimento cheeseburger - but he is from Manhattan.....

                      2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                        i'm guessing this is not a question of what is 'rational', as taste rarely is. But what is the difference between mayo on a grilled sandwich and rouille being whisked into a hot bouillabaise?

                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          None whatsoever, since I don't eat hot grilled sandwiches with mayo and I don't "whisk" rouille into bouillabaise: as far as I'm concerned, the rouille belongs on the crouton.

                          The true bouillabaise equivalent would be putting the rouille onto a thick slice off a baguette and THEN toasting it, which would be ludicrous.

                          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                            After this long discussion on the physics of the tuna melt, you're saying you don't eat tuna melt?

                            1. re: FoodDabbler

                              fd, she gave her recipe for it above. read back.

                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                I've been on this thread all afternoon. I don't need to look back. I only look forward.

                              2. re: FoodDabbler

                                Not at all. I'm saying I would turn up my nose at a tuna melt that was prepared by assembling a tuna salad sandwich and then grilling it whole like a grilled cheese. Tuna melts prepared in the other fashion -- grilling or broiling the bread and cheese to toast and melt them, then assembling the sandwich with a nice chilled tuna salad -- are one of my favorite sandwiches, and one I make on a fairly regular basis. (As I noted above, this isn't something I normally order in a diner, mostly because in a diner, I prefer the classic tuna salad club, which I *don't* make at home.)

                                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                  Yes, yes, I was just kidding. Your method is sound. But try the Nab-FoodDabbler method some day, too, for variety (the spice of life and all that).

                                  1. re: FoodDabbler

                                    I'm unclear on one point, though: after you stick the sandwich under the broiler, do you only broil the top or do you flip the sandwich and broil the other side too?

                                    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                      FoodDabbler's tuna melts are -- like his honest, open personality -- open face.

                                      I toast bread, or grill on an open gas flame, add cold tuna salad (oliveoil-packed tuna, mayo, squirt of mustard, chopped red onion, capers, chopped olives, chopped pickles), top with cheese, then place briefly under v. hot broiler till cheese melts and bubbles.

                              3. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                i sure don't whisk rouille into bouillabaisse.

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  i am reading a delighful and most informative book, "the auberge of the flowering hearth" by roy andries de groot. http://www.amazon.com/Auberge-Floweri... he just mentioned the stirring in of ailoli into bourride.

                                  i'm loving this book, and am learning so much -- esp. about french wine and cheese -- and food combinations. i wholly recommend it for anyone who loves food!

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    Evil woman! I just ordered this. And, of course, HAD to spend an additional $13.01 to get free shipping. But it sounds terrific.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      you won't regret that purchase, miss c. it is a true gem! i marvel at the menus and the lore. and i also wish that i could retain more of the information and insights. i intend to tell my local cheesemonger about it -- as it is packed with not-well-known-from-cheese-books info.

                          2. re: 9lives

                            Ha! It is interesting that Northerners tend to think that The South is The South but actually, each state in the South has its own specialties and cuisine. VA, being so Northern for The South- is very different from GA in cuisine. (And maybe my VA mom grew up eating room temp pimento cheese sandwiches, but that's not what she raised us with.) Anyhoo, hope you enjoyed watching this wkend.I feel bad for Mr. Erin go shoot- in- the- foot , but then again, he is young and promising.

                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              thats only people from the north who have not spent time away from the urban centers of the south. once you start eating in the backcountry the differences are legion. i had a fried chicken skin po boy , north of ponchartrain, near slidell that quite possibly was the best thing i have ever eaten. vinegar vs. mustard based? chopped vs. pulled? beef vs. pork? you can get punched by not learning the differences.

                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                i'm curious, o.c., what do you believe are the big differences between virginia and georgia cuisine? i find them remarkably similar.

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  just curious,al, did you live in either place and was your mom from either place?

                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                    yeah, OC, i am living in virginia with lots of relatives here (colonial heights, virginia beach), and also have (and had older) relatives in decatur and atlanta, stockbridge, and mcdonough. also family in north florida and south alabama, as well as south carolina. (pinckney is in the lineage). http://www.charlestonarts.sc/2011/01/...

                                    but...i'd still like to learn of your ideas about the differences in the georgia and virginia cuisines. families run deep. i've got cred here, believe me.

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      Yes, you do! And, hey, I grew up in Decatur.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        KOOL!!!!!! (tho' in decatur, they'd think im an idiot for writing that. LOL!).

                                        c oliver, you (thankfully) made me laugh today!

                            2. re: opinionatedchef

                              I don't know who "us" is but don't mess with a Southerner and her/his pimiento cheese sandwich. Especially at the Masters --- where that's what I ate. I don't know if they're still $2 (we were there in '93) but I bet they are. Somehow I don't think Augusta (the course not the city) needs any financial help from the concessions :)

                          3. Haven't real all the responses, but the classic is served cold on Wonder Bread.

                            4 Replies
                              1. re: FoodDabbler

                                I assume pimiento cheese. All this started because a poster on the Boston board began extolling the virtue of the grilled pimiento cheese sandwich, a concept I found moderately revolting.

                              2. re: pikawicca

                                pimento cheese is not served cold. it is served at the temperature of the oak- shaded garden, next to the picnic table and the playing field.

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  seriously, no cheese is best served cold. that is "revenge"! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revenge
                                  LOL!

                              3. there was just a mention from garden & gun magazine of a very popular grilled pimento cheese in NYC, in fact. it was referring to this article in new york magazine re the commodore's grilled cheese sandwich. http://nymag.com/bestofny/food/2011/g...

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: alkapal

                                  OMG!!!!! vindicated in print, and in the food mecca of NYC of all places!!!!! well thnx for that al.

                                  but of course, each to their own.....

                                  ".Best of NY 2011 from NY Magazine

                                  .Best Grilled Cheese

                                  The Commodore
                                  366 Metropolitan Ave., at Havemeyer St., Williamsburg; 718-218-7632

                                  The “Adult Cheese” at this hipster-besieged saloon is but one of many recent pimento-cheese additions to New York’s southern-tending foodscape (if a loosely interpretive one). It’s also the best: a housemade spread of roasted poblanos, grated Cheddar, cream cheese, and mayo, topped with a dollop of salsa roja, sandwiched between two lavishly buttered slices of Arnold Country White and cooked until crisp and gooey. Like youth itself, way too good to be wasted on the young.

                                  See Also: Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite's Full Review"

                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                    Vindicated? Wow. I read that blurb and thought that it could be a tasty sandwich but it's no more a pimiento cheese sandwich than the man in the moon. Here's an old thread:

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/611110

                                    I could even accept one on whole wheat bread but seeded rye? Grilled? NEVER! And poblanos (which I dearly love BTW)? I think people are taking something that sure ain't broke and trying to "fix" it. Or maybe it's like the age-old martini argument. If it's anything other than gin and vermouth, you can call it whatever you want but it's not a martini. Same with PC sandwich IMneverHO :)

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      I'm with you on this: I realize that there are some people out there who put cream cheese in their pimiento cheese. I disagree, but I recognize that that's a thing. But roasted poblanos? No. At that point, what you have is no longer pimiento cheese, but something else entirely. It's like making an oyster bisque but calling it clam chowder.

                                      I'm thinking I might whip up a batch of pimiento cheese tonight. I now have a hankering.

                                    2. re: opinionatedchef

                                      you're most welcome, "o see." life is about a conversation. not a fiat boom.

                                      actually, i do enjoy talking about food, foodways, culture, and food trends. it is not about any kind of "gotcha" for me. it is REALLY about the FOOD. if you see my posts, you'll know that.