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Blue Ribbons, Green Gables, & White Dresses




As anyone who’s played a game of Trivial Pursuit against me can tell you, I’m a little…competitive by nature. That’s why I’ve come to love competing in the Orange County Fair every year. It’s a great place to try new recipes, receive some constructive feedback, and break away from being a “cottage law” baker for a while. Plus, I guess you could say that I’m pretty good at it because I’ve won eight ribbons over the last three years. But last year’s fair unfolded a little differently for me. 


I wanted it to be my most ambitious year yet. Instead of my usual single entry, I submitted five items for judgment. But my Blueberry Scones were the only entry that won anything, and only an Honorable Mention to boot. Now, I know that nobody can win all the time, and I really just love being able to put my baked goods up against other bakers from all over the county. But something about that lonely little peach ribbon I got just didn’t sit right with me. Did I throw in too much baking soda? Did I accidentally use salt instead of sugar? Whatever it was, a voice deep inside was telling me that I could’ve done better. I must’ve done a terrible job at hiding it too, because my husband saw right through me and asked, “Well, are there any other categories you can still enter?” I wasn’t sure, so I went on the website and saw that there was still time to enter the “Pies and Tarts” category. But the entries were due in a little over a week.


So I did what any rational woman who works 10-12 hours a day in a hot oven does. I signed up for five more entries!


Since the deadline was so close, I needed to basically give my items names and handle all the R&D later. I knew I wanted to make a quiche, but I wanted it to be unique. I didn’t want to make another Lorraine or Florentine. I wanted something that was a little more me. But what was that, exactly? It needed to be Southern. Of course, there would be bacon (my love language). I just needed something to tie it all together. Then, it hit me. 


Pimento Cheese. 


It’s creamy. It’s cheesy. It has a bit of heat and spice. Back home, we ate it in everything from a holiday cheese ball, to a piquant pre-meal dip, to the secret ingredient in a piping hot casserole (that’s a “Hot Dish” to you Northern Midwesterners). This humble spread is like culinary duct tape to us. So I took the components that make a great Pimento Cheese, added it to the custard, put in some bacon, and baked it golden brown. Then I called in my official taste tester, my husband, and we tried it. 


It was…not great. But at that point, I had to turn in the final product the next day. So I made it again with the tasting notes from the first trial run, and barely got it delivered in time. I was so nervous about it that I came home and used my notes to make it a third time so we could taste it. It was HEAVEN. The creaminess from the cream cheese and mayo added to the heat of the pimento, a good helping of bacon, and a scattering of green onions (my darling husband’s brilliant suggestion to cut the richness) tasted exactly how I’d imagined.


I was instantly transported to a memory of living in Kentucky. We lived on the same plot of land as the church where my Daddy preached. In the land off to the side of the church was a large grassy area with an arch that had long vines of honeysuckle trailing up and over it. In the heat of the Summer, when the house was stifling hot and the humidity was unbearable, my Momma would pack us up a picnic basket of pimento cheese sandwiches. Then we’d all sit on a blanket in the shade, and enjoy a picnic lunch. The breeze was a welcome relief in the heat of the day, and honeysuckle surrounding us perfumed the late Summer air. 


Eventually, Momma would always pull her favorite book from the basket - “101 Famous Poems” and we would take turns reading to each other. I always read “The Highwayman'' because my favorite movie at the time was ‘Anne of Green Gables’. The lead character, Anne, read it aloud at the VERY fancy White Sands Hotel in her prettiest white dress. But of course, the poem itself is macabre and dramatic and, y’know, me. Anyway, whenever I read “The Highwayman”, I’d always pretend that I had a beautiful white dress on with puffiest of sleeves, just like Anne did in the movie. I’d completely forgotten that memory, but when I bit into that quiche, I was instantly a little girl again. I spent the rest of that week reading from my own copy of “101 Famous Poems” and remembering all the wonderful picnics we had while I was little. 


That Sunday, my husband called me downstairs with some urgency in his voice. I asked him what was up, and he just looked me in the eye and said, “Your quiche won the Blue Ribbon.” I’d like to say that I gracefully twirled with joy just like Anne in her puffy white dress…but really I just started doing some weird kung fu kicks in the living room and yelling “YEAH! TAKE THAT!” at the top of my lungs like I’d just sacked Tom Brady. Yes, I’d won. And yes, I do love winning immensely. But way more importantly, I got to share something special from my childhood, and have something special come back to me in exchange. 


So here it is. My Blue Ribbon Winning Bacon and Pimento Cheese Quiche. It tastes great everywhere and at any time, hot or cold. But I highly recommend packing a picnic basket with it, along with some iced tea and your favorite book, and eating it outdoors on a hot afternoon while getting back in touch with your inner child. 


Bacon and Pimento Cheese Quiche

Winner Blue Ribbon in 2023 OC Fair

Makes 1 9” Quiche


1 par baked pie crust, (see recipe below)

½ teaspoon of mayonnaise (see notes)

½ teaspoon of dijon mustard

4 eggs, room temperature

¼ c heavy cream, room temperature

¾ c buttermilk, room temperature

1 ¼ oz cream cheese, room temperature

2 Tablespoons mayonnaise 

hot sauce to taste

salt and pepper to taste

⅛ teaspoon paprika

⅛ teaspoon cayenne1 jar (4oz) pimentos, drained

3 slices of cooked bacon, diced

1c shredded sharp cheddar

2 green onions, thinly sliced


  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F

  • Combine the 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise and dijon mustard in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to brush a very thin layer of the mixture on the bottom of your pie crust. Let it dry.

  • In a separate mixing bowl combine eggs, heavy cream, buttermilk, cream cheese, mayonnaise, hotsauce, salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne. Use an immersion blender to emulsify the custard.

  • In the custard mixture, fold in pimentos, bacon, cheddar, and green onions. Pour mixture into the pie crust.

  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until the center has just set. 

  • Let cool for 10-15 minutes and enjoy! 


Notes:

  • Being a true Southern household we always use Duke’s Mayonnaise that we order online. But you can use any brand that you love.

  • This recipe is easily modified to any flavor. Just mix 4 eggs with 1- 1 ¼ cups of dairy and add whatever spices or add- ins you like. I highly recommend using heavy cream for part of the dairy because it makes the filling creamy and luxurious. 


Elisa Marie Bakes Pie Crust

Makes 1 9” pie


2 ½ cups of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of sugar

¼  cup (4 Tablespoons) of butter flavored shortening

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks, 12 Tablespoons) of cold butter

1 Tablespoon of white vinegar

¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon of ice cold water


  • Cut butter into 1” cubes. Place butter and shortening in the refrigerator.

  • Combine vinegar and water in a small bowl. Set in the freezer. Do not completely freeze, just keep cold while you prepare the dough.

  • In the bowl of a mixer, measure out flour, sugar, & salt. Using a paddle attachment mix on low to combine.

  • Add cold shortening and mix on low until the shortening is mixed in.

  • Add butter a little at a time while still mixing on low. Mix until the butter looks like crumbs in the flour. Do not over mix until it becomes dough.

  • Get the water and vinegar mixture from the fridge or freezer. Mix on low while slowly drizzling in the water and vinegar. Do not over mix. Mix until the dough will press together.

  • Place dough on Silpat and shape into a disc. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to rest for at least 1 hour.

  • After 1 hour let the dough set at room temperature until it is still cool but pliable. Then roll the dough to approximately ⅛ inch thick. Use the rolling pin to place the dough in a 9” pie pan. Crimp the edges.

  • If par baking, dock the bottom with a fork and place parchment paper over the crust. Fill with baking beads and bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes.

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