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Just in time for holiday feasting, snacking, sharing, and celebrating, this smart, inviting new cookbook by my friend Perre Coleman Magness will be getting a workout all holiday season long. That will continue through the year, because it’s not just for holiday occasions, but what a boon to have it here now. I’ve been enjoying both in my reading chair and at the kitchen counter, and so far, SO GOOD! The author, Perre Coleman Magness, is my good friend, known and loved for her Southern-seasoned recipe-centered blog, The Runaway Spoon. Check it out and subscribe to it right here:

The Runaway Spoon

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Perre Coleman Magness of The Runaway Spoon, showing me her brand new cookbook on Pub Day, September 9, 2014, at the Peabody Hotel, Memphis, Tennessee. It’s her hometown, and we were both at the Peabody for conference of Association of Food Journalists, which also rocked.

What a treat to be IN Perre’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, this fall, on Publication Day for this delightful cookbook! Reason being, I was attending the Association of Food Journalists annual conference along with Perre and a host of our food-and-words-and-pictures-loving food-writer friends. I had a blast hanging out with Perre during that conference, especially having her guidance as a native Memphian in sharing her fascinating, historic, beautiful and important city with me. Can’t wait to go back, but what a gift, first thing was Perre coming in my direction for two book-launch events!

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Perre and yours truly at her Chapel Hill signing hosted by Flyleaf Books and held next door at the The Root Cellar

Perre kicked off her all-fall tour of Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook with a visit to Piedmont North Carolina. What a treat to have her in town for two book signing events and some free-time fun. First was a snack-enhanced event at @Flyleaf Books, co-hosted by  The Root Cellar, the fine, fun eatery right next door to Flyleaf Books where Chef Sera Cuni served up pimento cheese popcorn, three kinds of pimento cheese, and more straight out of Perre’s book.

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Perre visiting with a fan at The Root Cellar in Chapel Hill, next to host indie bookshop, Flyleaf Books.

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On Saturday morning, Perre shared her book and its story with fans at McIntyre’s Books, located just 8 miles south of Chapel HIll  in Fearrington Village.   Everybody loved Perre, of course, eagerly lining up for signed books. They stayed patient thanks to themed snacks from the book: See the last few Pimento Cheese Stuffed Eggs (page 41 ), which I made in a jiffy that morning, and a few spoonfuls of Buttermilk Pimento Cheese (page 33 ).

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 Intrigued by the 36 recipes in the cookbook which use pimento cheese as a starting point and inspiration, I tried my hand at Pimento Cheese Green Beans (page 125), in hopes that I might find a worthy dish for Thanksgiving, with notes of green bean casserole, taken to higher place. I was right! It’s luscious, satisfying, simple to make and sure to please a crowd at any covered dish supper, holiday meal, or gathering of hungry people.

 

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Pimento Cheese Green Beans ready for the baking pan

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Just out of the oven…

 

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Pimento Cheese Green Beans, served up and ready for the table. Wonderful lusicous side dish and a hearty item for a vegetarian feast.

Then I went to a dish which reminded me of cheese straws, a Southern specialty beloved at holiday snack tables and yearround parties, and the perfect take-along gift for any host. They came out wonderfully, and I love that I could make half of them and freeze the remaining portion, ready to slice up and bake later this months when holiday baking season really gets going.

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Perre’s Pimento Cheese Crisps, lovely welcome for guests, item for the snacks table, or welcome gift for hosts, teachers, and anyone else you want to please.

I used pecans but walnuts would be just as tasty. There’s a little bit of cayenne in there, and I think next time I might boost it so as to have a fiery edge to half of my batch. Like all Perre’s recipes, these dishes from Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook worked wonderfully as written and provided excellent results. Her recipes include simple and complex dishes, elaborate and easy dishes, and the common thread is that the results are delicious and instructions make sense, even for a novice cook, without talking down to us old-timers who have been around the block, or kitchen counter a time or two. Get this book. For you or for a friend. You will love it.

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 Perre Coleman Magness’s Pimento Cheese Crisps

Perre’s practical, engaging voice provides extra flavor and pleasure to any enounter with her book. Here are two comments she shares as an introduction to this fine recipe, giving you a sense of how she thinks and cooks: “…Crumbly and cheesy, with the tang of pimentos and the crunch of pecans, they are the perfect nibble with a tall glass of ice tea (or short glass of bourbon). …They are a marvelous standby, as you can keep the rolls in the freezer for emergencies, and they make a lovely gift, wrapped up with a ribbon.”  For Perre’s blogpost from The Runaway Spoon on this recipe:  Click HERE.

One 4-oz. jar diced pimentos
8 oz. sharp orange cheddar cheese
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1⁄2 tsp. garlic powder
1⁄2 tsp. smoked paprika
1⁄2 tsp. sweet paprika
Dash of cayenne pepper
A generous pinch of kosher salt
A few grinds of black pepper
1⁄2 cup chopped pecans

Rinse and drain the pimentos and place them on paper towels. Pat them dry and then leave them for 10-15 minutes to air-dry. Grate the cheese and the cold butter together in a food processor fitted with the grating disk. Switch from the grating disk to the metal blade, then add the flour, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, smoked and sweet paprikas, cayenne, salt and black pepper. Process until the dough just begins to come together and looks moist and grainy. Add the pecans and process until the dough begins to pull away from the sides and is about to form a ball. Add the pimentos and pulse a few times just until the dough forms a ball.

Dump the dough onto a piece of waxed paper, being sure to scrape out all the pimento pieces. Knead the dough a few times just to incorporate and distribute the pimento pieces. Cut two more lengths of waxed paper, divide the dough into 2 portions and place each portion on one length of waxed paper. Form each dough portion into a log and roll tightly, pressing in the ends to form a nice solid log and twisting the ends closed like a candy wrapper.

Refrigerate the logs for at least 1 hour before baking, but you can refrigerate them for up to 2 days or freeze them for 3 months. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the rolls from the fridge and slice into medium-thick wafers, about 1⁄4-inch each. Place on the baking sheet, allowing a little room between them to spread, and bake until golden around the edges and firm on the top, 10-12 minutes. Cool on the pans for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen crisps

Look for Perre’s book at your favorite independent bookstore, or order it from one of these book sources:
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About the Author
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of ten cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native,and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.

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