Simple sandwiches score at the Masters Tournament


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The Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga. -- coming up April 7-13 -- will be one cheesy place. The first time my husband, Roy, and I went to it, we fell in love. Not with each other -- we did that a couple of decades ago -- but with those oh-so-famous and oh-so-delicious pimiento cheese and egg salad sandwiches on white bread for which the Masters has become so renowned.

Wrapped in a clear green cellophane-type wrapper -- a hat tip to the tournament's famous green jackets -- the sandwiches are made daily for the world's best known golf tournament. They're fresh and just plain wonderful. Plus, they're dirt cheap. At a place where tickets can cost a mortgage payment or two or three, these white-bread wonders cost a paltry $1.50 each.

But getting the recipe for either sandwich is a Masters mystery. Don't bother calling Augusta National, where the tournament is held, for its super-duper top-secret recipes, because, as we say here in the South, it ain't happenin' -- no way, no how. A spokesman for the notoriously private club politely and good-naturedly declined my request for the recipes.

Of course, you may find yourself in Augusta and craving one of those sandwiches -- but without the Masters ticket surcharge. Not to worry. Several restaurants in Augusta come very close to those masterful recipes, and -- wild rumor has it -- that one (or possibly more) of these local institutions could even be the provider of those delicacies.

Locals say that for egg salad sandwiches, Sandwich City on 10th Street is the place to get cracking. WifeSaver's pimiento cheese is practically legendary, and with eight locations around Augusta, you're never far away from one of these home-style restaurants. Another spot for pimiento cheese, Michael and Lisa Hogue's Walton Way Deli consistently gets five stars from its customers.

"Keeping it simple is our philosophy," Michael Hogue says. "It doesn't take a lot of ingredients to make food taste good. We make all of our products from scratch and in-house. We like to stay on top of things and make sure everything is fresh and consistent."

Mr. Hogue also says that while his deli's chicken salad is his best-seller, the pimiento cheese is popular, too. "We use medium-sharp cheddar cheese, pimiento peppers, mayonnaise, a pinch of sugar and a little garlic pepper. The garlic pepper is what adds that little something extra to it."

If you're not going to the Masters or Augusta anytime soon to get the real thing, you can make these little Southern iconic gems yourself.

For something so tasty, neither sandwich is complicated to make. Let's just call these simple concoctions comfort food, the kind that's easy to throw together for tailgating parties, church socials, picnics and even for funerals.

At an event in my hometown, one of the menu items was pimiento cheese sandwiches. My husband took a nibble of one, and then happily declared it to be "as close to the real thing as it gets."

The source of the sandwiches for the soiree was Marynelle Presley, friend and Southern cook extraordinaire. Ms. Presley, mother of two and grandmother of two, is like most women from the South whose great cooking genes have been handed down from generation to generation.

For her quick and easy pimiento cheese sandwiches, she keeps it very simple and is adamant about using sharp cheddar and freshly cracked black pepper, adding that the "real key" is Duke's Mayonnaise.

Plenty of other variations of the pimiento cheese sandwich use flavorful ingredients such as crumbled bacon, cream cheese and, yes, even sardines -- a sort of strange recipe I found in a 1940s-era cookbook.

Making egg salad sandwiches is just as easy as making ones with pimiento cheese. I'm happy to say that my husband fell in love with me all over again when I learned to make the faux-Masters egg salad sandwich. The as-far-from-fancy-as-it-gets recipe also uses Duke's Mayonnaise and fresh, soft white bread, and it's a close kissin' cousin to the one served at the golf tournament.

Using the basic Kissin' Cousin egg salad recipe, you can make the egg salad more extravagant by adding other ingredients. Olives, onion, celery, cucumber, shallots, capers, avocado, cayenne and curry come to mind, and you can always add extras like lettuce, tomato and bacon.

But for real taste of the Masters, leave off all those extras and eat it naked -- but the sandwich should be naked, not you.

(Duke's Mayonnaise, according to the company's store finder, can be found in Pennsylvania at WalMart Super Center; if you can't find it just use regular mayonnaise.)

■ ■ ■

Kissin 'cousin to the Masters egg salad sandwich

6 hard-boiled eggs, shells removed

1/3 cup or slightly more, to taste, of Duke's or regular mayonnaise

3/4 teaspoon yellow mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the eggs in a large bowl until just slightly chunky. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Serve on white bread.

-- Mary Ann Anderson

■ ■ ■

Avocado egg salad sandwich

4 hardboiled eggs, shells removed

1/2 avocado, seeded and peeled

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice

Dash of hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Place eggs and avocado in a medium-sized bowl. Chop until just slightly chunky. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Serve on toasted or untoasted bread.

-- Mary Ann Anderson

■ ■ ■

Miss Marynelle's masterful pimiento cheese sandwich

16-ounce block sharp cheddar cheese

1 4-ounce jar of chopped pimientos

Salt and cracked pepper to taste

Duke's Mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise)

White bread

Grate cheddar cheese into a large bowl. Add chopped pimientos (for more pimiento flavor, use 8-ounce jar instead of 4-ounce jar). Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise to mix and stir well. Continue adding mayonnaise one teaspoon at a time until the mixture is of the consistency you like. Serve on white bread.

-- Marynelle Presley

■ ■ ■

Pimiento wssandwiches with crumbled bacon

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese

4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1 to 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 2-ounce jar pimiento-stuffed olives, chopped

Finely chopped onion to taste

Mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients together with enough mayonnaise to spread; start with 1 to 2 teaspoons and work from there. Spread on rye bread and broil for a minute or two.

-- Adapted from "Land of Cotton: A Collection of Southern Recipes"
(Wimmer Cookbooks, $21.95)

■ ■ ■

Pimiento and walnut sandwiches

This recipe is from my mother's cookbook that dates to the 1940s. The publisher can't be determined because its cover, first few pages and index are missing. The book has 966 pages without the index. Even with its torn, yellowed and stained pages, I can never make myself throw it away.

1/2 cup chopped English walnut meats

1/2 cup chopped pimientos

3 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/8 teaspoon salt

Butter

Brown or nut bread

Mix walnut meats with pimientos, cream cheese, mayonnaise and salt. Spread between buttered slices of brown or nut bread.

-- Mary Ann Anderson

■ ■ ■

Pimiento-sardine sandwiches

This is another recipe from my mother's beloved 1940s cookbook.

1/2 cup mashed sardines

1/3 cup minced pimientos

Mayonnaise

Mix sardines, pimientos and mayonnaise to taste; broil on toast.

-- Mary Ann Anderson



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