Monday, August 16, 2010

make a grown man cry

Tomato pie

Summer isn't really summer in New Hampshire until it's almost fall.  It's the middle of August and the tomatoes are only just getting going at a good clip - before you know it, it'll be apple and pumpkin season.  Instead of the summer full of produce that you get even in Indiana - nevermind places further south - you get a brief window when everything comes at once.  Could be worse.  Could be Maine.

Tomato pie is only worth making with fresh tomatoes from a garden or a farm.  Nothing from the supermarket, nothing that's been in the refrigerator - there are flavor compounds in tomatoes that are destroyed by refrigerator-level temperatures, though most of the tomatoes from the supermarket have already been through that, already lost those, so feel free to treat them like the invulnerable little hunks of blushing flavorless science they are.

A lot of recipes for tomato pie call for basil, but the only reason I can see for that is that people see tomatoes, people see cheese, people think Italian.  There's nothing about this that needs to be Italian - I focus just on the tomatoes.  Once in a blue moon I mix something in with the cheese to add a little flavor, some onion or pimento cheese or something.

Now, supposedly you can freeze tomato pie, and that got me wondering about how soggy a thawing tomato pie might get - so I scooped the pulp out of my tomatoes for this pie, which is a good idea if you want to cut down on potential sogginess, but not strictly necessary:

Tomato slices

Lightly sprinkle the tomato slices with salt and drain them on paper towels (or napkins in my case) for 10-15 minutes, to draw some of the juices out.  Meanwhile, bake a single pie crust until it starts to turn golden.

I sprinkled a little bit of mozzarella on the pie crust after it baked, to provide a sort of seal between the crust and the tomatoes - another anti-sog maneuver.  Layer your tomatoes in - you may want to chop a few into chunks to fill gaps:

Untopped tomato pie

The topping for tomato pie is traditionally a combination of cheese and mayonnaise.  The mayonnaise just acts as a binder, helps to make the topping something slightly different than just melted cheese.  Paula Deen's recipe uses equal amounts of cheddar, dry mozzarella, and mayonnaise (one cup of each), which I find too heavy on the mayo.  I eyeballed the cheese - sharp cheddar, mozzarella left over from the pizzas, and a little cotija cheese - and added just a little more mayo than was needed to bind it together like egg salad.  There's no alchemy here, you don't need precise proportions.

Tomato pie

Tomato pie should be served slightly warm from the oven (not hot; let it cool off a little) or room-temperature.

Now, what to do with the tomato pulp?  Supposedly, the pulp and the seeds contain the most umami flavor, though I've seen this contradicted and haven't followed up to find out the truth.  In any case, the pulp certainly has plenty of flavor, and you should feel free to do something with it.  I had a little pasta (cooked in water spiked with Zatarain's crab boil), with tomato pulp and shredded cheese.

Penne cooked in crab boil; tomato pulp; cheese

1 comment:

  1. i've never heard of tomato pie, and i live in Jersey, even! i can't wait to try this out. holy cow.