If you’ve been paying attention to the culinary world the past few years, you know that foods that have been cured, pickled, fermented, and otherwise deliciously enhanced are “having a moment,” as they say. Humans have been preserving food for eons, but there’s nothing like a global pandemic to get folks in a back-to-basics mindset, diligently nursing sourdough babies and cultivating a newfound appreciation for things that are fleeting.

None of that is new to chef Steve McHugh, who opened his San Antonio restaurant Cured in 2013. His approach to cooking has long celebrated the ideas of plenitude and preservation and capturing the momentary vibrancy of life’s seasons, terrestrial and otherwise. It’s a hard-won philosophy for the six-time James Beard Award–nominated chef, who nearly saw his life derailed by a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 33 years old.

cured cookbook steve mchugh
Courtesy of Ten Speed Press

Published on March 26 by Ten Speed Press, Cured is a joyful 352-page book filled with inviting photos and lively, approachable writing (McHugh’s coauthor is Paula Forbes, an Austin-based cookbook author who helped write Texas Monthly’s own collection of recipes, The Big Texas Cookbook). Technique-focused chapter headings include “Acid,” “Dry,” “Sugar,” “Ferment,” and “Smoke” (among others), but don’t expect a clinical compendium of processes. All of the building blocks are there (the made-from-scratch brines, confits, doughs, and shrubs), but more important are the oodles of recipes showing you how to use all those jars, bottles, and cans, whether you filled them yourself or purchased them. Those “secret weapons,” as McHugh calls them, serve as a foundation for a wealth of enticing meals, from kimchi meatloaf to cornmeal-breaded catfish with chow-chow tartar sauce. Pickles are at the heart of the recipe below for pimento cheese, in which McHugh swaps out the usual pimentos for diced dills—the crunchy, piquant bits make a striking foil for the creamy cheese. Making your own pickles is optional.

cured pimento cheese

Pickled “Pimento” Cheese

San Antonio chef Steve McHugh shares his "Cured" take on the Southern classic, which swaps peppers for pickles. Adapted from Cured by Steve McHugh & Paula Forbes, copyright © 2024.
Servings 1 quart


  • Stand Mixer


  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup finely diced pickles, with 2 tablespoons pickle brine reserved
  • 1 pound sharp yellow cheddar, grated (McHugh recommends forgoing preshredded cheese, as it often contains cellulose, which will prevent the dip from coming together)
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Crackers, for serving


  • Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add the mayonnaise and reserved pickle brine and continue beating until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and add the shredded cheese, mixing until well incorporated.
  • Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to fold in the pickles, white pepper, hot sauce, cayenne, sugar, and garlic.
  • Refrigerate the pimento cheese for at least 30 minutes before serving. This can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 4 days.


You can also use a hand mixer for the cream cheese, mayonnaise, and pickle brine. Switch to a heavy rubber spatula to fold in the shredded cheese.