The internet is truly the great rabbit hole. One minute I was reading about The Making of Charleston’s Grand Marnier Craze, and the next I was looking up how to buy Durkee sauce. The article references a pimento cheese made with three tablespoons of Grand Marnier, so I looked it up and found that the Charleston Junior League, of Charleston Receipts fame, has another book called Party Receipts that was released in 1993. Within its pages is a recipe for Trina’s Pimento Cheese. It is a curious pimento cheese recipe indeed.
It calls for the usual: jarred pimento peppers, shredded cheddar cheese, garlic, mayonnaise … but also a few unusual ingredients. One is mustard. The next is Durkee sauce, but the oddest of all is the Grand Marnier — which is an orange and cognac liqueur. I couldn’t even fathom how the alcohol would enhance the cheese flavor so I set out to figure out how to make this concoction. Searches in the grocery store for Durkee sauce yielded nothing, and buying it online was cost prohibitive for just one bottle. There is a recipe online to make it, so I set out to do just that.
Just a tip, do NOT use an immersion blender or its whisk attachment for this. Just put it in the blender with a LID. I’m still scrubbing yellow gunk from every crevice of that corner of my kitchen, and my shoes. Let’s leave it at that.
For the pimento cheese recipe itself, the instructions are as easy as making any pimento cheese, until the time comes to stir in the Grand Ma. It just feels weird, as the aromas of the perfectly good if not a bit mustardy cheese spread mingles with the sharp bite of the orangey cognac in the air. After being mixed together, it needs to sit in the fridge for at least a few hours, if not overnight, for the flavors to fully mix together.
I was afraid to taste it at first. Patrick took the first fateful bite and after thoughtful consideration deemed it not bad and went back for another scoop on a yellow tortilla chip. It was a good sign. Then it became oddly addicting, the mustard bite being the most noticeable thing about it he said, not the Grand Ma. I still didn’t taste it but packaged up the rest to take to a friend’s house for a party, without knowing what I was foisting upon them.
People at the party were intrigued to try it after being told what it was. People seemed to enjoy it and I finally took a chip and dragged it across the top of the spread. I bit down and let the flavors dance across my tastebuds. It was good. I took a second swipe with another chip and realized, yes, this was happening. Orange and cognac and cheese and it was actually working!
I’ve made it several more times since with similar results. Everyone seems to like it, though I’ve definitely gotten some weird looks for saying, “Oh yeah, this pimento cheese has booze in it.”
This holiday season, bring a little weirdness to the table with this dip and see how it goes over, and especially anyone with friends or relatives that lived in Charleston in the 90s, ask them if they got into the Grand Ma phase.