I have to tell you about a mistake I made so that you won't make the same mistake: When I set out to cook this recipe for toast with grilled peaches and pimiento cheese from Soul by Todd Richards, I thought, “Yes, three cups of cheese spread will be plenty of cheese spread for me and the other human living with me.” I figured three cups, which is the quantity that the recipe yields, would be ample pimiento cheese to test the recipe (it was) and then enjoy otherwise for days to come (it was not).
Instead, I eked out precious spoonfuls of the leftover smoky, salty, sweet spread—which is loaded with freshly sautéed red bell peppers; chopped cooked bacon; the vibrant, heat-flecked sauce from a can of chipotles; and various other flavorings—instead of lavishing crackers, tomato slices, and more piles of toast with the stuff the way I truly wanted to. The way I would if I'd made “extra.” Lesson learned.
The good news is that because the recipe calls for just half a block each of sharp yellow and white cheddar cheeses, half a block of cream cheese, and just 4 slices of bacon, there's no reason you shouldn't go ahead and double it. More pimiento cheese (especially a version this good) will always and forever be a good thing.
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What makes Richards's variation on pimiento cheese so appealing is its smoky backbone. He says he wanted to “invoke the memories” of his father, who was “a big lover of smoked cheddar on Ritz crackers.”
To that end, he evolved Dad's favorite cheese into a spread hit twice with smoke: First, from crisp bacon, which Richards says also lends greater texture to the dish as a whole. The second dose comes from the smoky, vinegar-kicked sauce that lies in a can of chipotles in adobo. (You can achieve a similar vibe using a tube of puréed chipotle chiles.)
Once prepared, the cheese is spread—in a layer as thick as you can handle—onto grilled slices of crusty multigrain bread (more smoke, more texture). Next, an ingredient that may be surprising given the richness already within: grilled avocado, smashed with olive oil.
“What people may not consider is that avocado provides a little bitterness," Richards says; "and while they may be rich, avocados have a way of cutting through the fat in a dish. And, when you add acid to an avocado [e.g. the vinegar in the cheese spread and juice from the peaches], it showcases its natural earthiness which grounds the richness as well.”
Grilled peaches crown the smashed avocado and creamy cheese, turning this toast into a truly special rendition of summer's best flavors. The smoky-sweet-heat of the dish is topped with a flurry of flavorful, texture-enhancing garnishes: shaved radishes (crispness and a fresh, peppery bite), watercress (spice and bitterness—Richards says arugula works here too), sea salt (crunch and salinity), olive oil (because you deserve it).
Richards says he likes to think of “soul food as comfort food; it should remind you of something.” To that end, I recommend eating your grilled peach toast outside. Instead of balking when and if it happens, encourage the peach juices to run down your forearm. And if this dish takes your mind to some August back porch, 10 or 20 or 60 years ago, when the grill was just getting started for dinner and a small kid was savoring an afternoon grilled cheese (or maybe a piece of supremely ripe fruit) in the waning summer sun, that's his job, done. And, if the only place it take you is to the other side of dinner, that's fine too. It'll have been a hell of a good time, either way.