‘Cheese the day’

Alabama Living Magazine
Fresh tomato pie on white wooden background

We at Alabama Living always look forward to the fall, which means it’s time for the Alabama National Fair and its tasty cooking contests. We sponsor one of the contests each year to give our talented home cooks a chance to show off their culinary skills. But we have a selfish motive too – we get some great recipes to share with our readers!  

Because of COVID-19 concerns, the contest had to look a little different this year, but the home cooks still provided some tasty and creative recipes on our theme, which for 2020 was “Say Cheese, Please!” 

We hope you’ll be able to use these winning recipes to bring smiles to your own crowd!

First Place

Savory Tomato Pie
Margaret Goins, Montgomery

One deep dish pie shell, baked until almost done

4 tomatoes

2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese

1 cup Parmesan cheese

1½ cups mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

¼ cup Alaga hot sauce

Green onions, chopped

Cooked bacon, chopped

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice tomatoes and salt well. Put in colander and let drain. Get as much juice out as possible. In a mixing bowl, add cheddar cheese, mayo, sour cream, hot sauce, salt and pepper, and mix well. Layer tomatoes, then green onions and bacon.  Spread with the cheese mixture. Add Parmesan cheese on top. Bake until bubbly and cheese is melted. Let sit a few minutes before slicing.

Second Place

Three Cheese Mediterranean Galette
Jamie Davis, Tallassee

(Note: A galette is a flat, crusty cake filled with a main ingredient)

One pie crust (homemade or store-bought)

4 ounces herbed goat cheese

2 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 cup white cheddar cheese, grated

3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, julienne cut

½ cup Mediterranean olives

6 marinated artichoke hearts, patted dry and halved

6-8 slices prosciutto ham

¼ cup Alaga hot sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil for drizzling

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3-4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 egg (for egg wash)

One bunch baby arugula

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

Roll out the pie dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  First, add the Roma tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano and parsley. Leave about two inches of pie crust for folding in the edges. Then layer the sun-dried tomatoes over the Roma tomatoes. Next, place the artichokes and prosciutto ham. Mix together the goat cheese, mascarpone cheese and white cheddar cheese together (a food processor works great). Add Alaga hot sauce. Dollop spoonfuls of cheese over the other ingredients. Grab the dough border and fold it toward the center, overlapping the dough the entire circumference of the galette. Lightly brush the egg wash around the border. (I like to sprinkle parmesan cheese as well.) Bake for 20 minutes. Cool for five minutes before removing the galette. Arrange baby arugula around the galette. Add olives. Drizzle with olive oil.

Third place

Skillet Cheese Dip with Cheddar Cheese Straws and Blue Cheese Sticks
Melissa Welch, Wetumpka 


3 cups cauliflower (about 1 small head)

½ cup onion, chopped

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup sour cream

2 cups chopped fresh spinach

1 12-ounce jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

4 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded and divided

1 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded

½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded

½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons Alaga hot sauce

½ teaspoon salt

4 scallions, finely chopped

Additional scallions, chopped for garnish

Melt butter in 10-inch cast iron skillet and saute on medium high the cauliflower and chopped onion until cooked and beginning to brown (5 to 8 minutes). Add garlic, stir. Turn heat to low and add cream cheese, sour cream, chopped spinach, artichoke hearts, ¾ of pepper jack cheese (save ¼ to add to the top). Add remaining cheese (white cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella) and hot sauce and stir well. Sprinkle with salt and stir. Simmer on low 2 to 3 minutes to blend. Add four chopped scallions and mix in. Top with remaining ¼ pepper jack cheese. Bake at 375 degrees, 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool 5 minutes and top additional chopped scallions. Serve from the skillet with blue cheese sticks and cheddar cheese straws (recipes follow).

Blue Cheese Sticks

4 ounces blue cheese crumbles

¼ cup butter, softened

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon red pepper

1 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds

Beat blue cheese and butter at medium speed until fluffy. Add flour, poppy seeds and red pepper, beating until just combined. Roll into sticks and refrigerate 1 hour. Arrange on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool on rack. Store in airtight container. 

Cheddar Cheese Straws

¾ cup butter, softened

½ pound (8 ounces) extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon red pepper

3-4 dashes Alaga hot sauce

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon paprika

Beat first five ingredients together until blended. Gradually add flour until just combined. Use a cookie press to pipe out mixture into ribbons. Cut before baking into desired lengths. Bake at 350 degrees 12 minutes. Cool on rack. Top with paprika. Store in airtight container.


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