Saturday, July 25, 2015

Tomato Pie: The Holy Grail of Summer Recipes

Every summer I rekindle my obsession with this crazy thing called tomato pie. Tomato WHAT? you might be saying. I had never heard of it until a few years ago either, and it took me two years after printing the recipe to finally give it a whirl. But Oh. My. YUM. You are about to make the most glorious culinary discovery. I am so excited for you.

It is with great anticipation that I wait for tomatoes to show up at the farmers' market, that I wait for them to get good and ripe. Part of me dreads the work it will take and the mess it will make, because I'm not gonna lie, this pie is a bit of a diva. It's not for the beginner cook or the faint of heart. If you make your crust from scratch, you will be in the kitchen for hours. HOURS, at the end of which it may look something like this:

But then you will sit down to this:

 ...and you will know what summer tastes like, and you will not regret a single dirty bowl.

First things first: Don't even think about attempting this with underripe tomatoes. And don't even mention this pie in the same breath as grocery store "tomatoes." You need them good and ripe. Add in some bacon (because duh, BACON), sweet Vidalia onions, and cheese--lots of cheese. You're drooling already, aren't you? Here we go:

Double Crust Tomato Pie
(adapted from Home-Ec 101)

1 recipe double pie crust (come on, if I can do it, anyone can--see below)
3 lbs very ripe tomatoes
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I use half cheddar, half mozzarella or Monterey Jack)
3-6 slices bacon (more or less depending on how thick it is)
3 TBSP mayonnaise (supposedly you can also use cream cheese, but don't use light mayo)
dried basil


1. Cook bacon. FYI, if you didn't already know this, you want to do that bacon in the oven, not on the stovetop where you have to flip it and get spattered with hot grease. And you want to cook it on this pan. Best bacon you have tasted in your life, forever and ever, amen. 400 degrees, 20-25 minutes. (If you want to cook all the bacon, and snack on the extra while you cook, I won't tell anyone you only needed three slices for the pie.) Turn the oven to 425* to preheat for the pie.

2. Get those onions started. You don't *have* to pre-cook them; you could just slice them super, super thin (the original recipe makes me laugh: "No, thinner. No, thinner still, we want the Calista Flockhart onions.") --but sometimes they still turn out slightly crunchy. I like to cook them, because why not, the whole recipe is a pain and makes a ton of dishes anyway, what's one more--and because caramelized onions. These take quite a while, and you have to keep an eye on them--you don't want them to burn. (It would make sense to start them first, but if you wait until the bacon is done, you can caramelize them in bacon grease instead of plain old butter. Just saying.)

So, slice up the onion and throw it in a pan with a tablespoon or two of fat on medium heat. Stir occasionally, turning the heat down and/or adding more fat if they start to turn more dark brown/black instead of golden brown. Saute for about 45 minutes or until they look something like the bottom right picture (keep in mind I am no food photographer):


3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Core tomatoes and cut an X in the bottom of each one. Boil tomatoes for one minute or until skin loosens and begins to peel away. Remove tomatoes and place in cold water. 

4. Slice tomatoes, scooping away some of the seeds so they aren't quite so wet, and place them in a colander over a large bowl. Sprinkle them with salt (and pepper, if you like pepper--I don't) and allow them to sit and drain while you prepare the other ingredients. 

5. In a medium bowl, mix together the cheese, mayo, and crumbled bacon. 

6. Lay the bottom pie crust in a 9" pie plate. Cover the bottom with a layer of tomatoes, then spread half the caramelized onions over the pie (you'll have to use your fingers to separate them and spread them out). Sprinkle with dried basil (the original calls for 1/2 tsp; I don't measure and probably use more).

7. Create another layer with the remaining tomatoes, the rest of the onion, and more basil.

8. Spread cheese mixture over the top.

9. Lay the second pie crust over the top. Seal the edges and cut slits in the top. (You'll probably want to put something underneath the pie pan in the oven, in case it bubbles over.)

10. Go ahead and make a foil shield now, since you'll probably need one and it's much easier to do when the pan isn't too hot to touch. Bake for 45 minutes at 425 degrees. Check the pie after 30 minutes--if the crust is browning, cover the edges with the shield.


11. Let the pie set for at least 15 minutes before slicing so it won't be quite so runny.


Pie Crust
I don't claim to be an expert on this, and I don't even care much for pie crust, if we're being honest. But this recipe has worked better for me than the one or two others that I've tried, and I think it makes a pretty tasty crust, even if I still do give the end to my kids. The recipe comes from my friend Mandy--she and her husband were the first to invite us over for dinner when we were new at church, and she served us a fudge pie that was absolutely delicious--so much so that I asked for this crust recipe, since I enjoyed her crust more than any other I had tasted. 

I also have found that it works quite well with white whole wheat flour, if you're trying to be a little healthier and avoid white flour. 

Without further ado...

2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp salt
2 T sugar
1/2 c. shortening, chilled (I use Spectrum's non-hydrogenated shortening)
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1/4" pieces
6-10 T ice water

Pie crust requires planning ahead--you have to chill the shortening and then chill the crust. So start early in the day (or even a day or two before).

Combine flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. (You can absolutely do this by hand with a pastry blender, but a food processor makes it SO much easier.) Add shortening and process until the mixture is the texture of coarse sand (about 10 seconds). Scatter the pieces of butter over the flour mixture and cut the butter into the flour until the texture is coarse crumbs, with butter pieces no larger than small peas (Mandy suggests doing this in 10 or so one-second pulses). 

Turn the mixture into a large bowl and sprinkle 6 T ice water over it. Use a rubber spatula to fold the dough until it sticks together. Add up to 4 T more water if it will not stick. You can use your hands, too, but try not to get the dough warm. 

Divide the dough into two balls and flatten each into a 4-6" disk. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour (I stick them in the freezer for a while to make them really cold). 

I can't offer any tips on rolling the dough out or pinching the crust; I am terrible at that part. For tips and tricks, I'll refer you to Smitten Kitchen's pie crust tutorial.

Tomato pie. Now you know. Your family will love you forever. 

No comments: