Tomato pie

Yesterday, a neighbor who lives two doors down from my apartment complex offered me some Roma and cherry tomatoes from her garden.

There is nothing better than a home-grown tomato, sliced, with a little salt. But when someone gives me a bunch of tomatoes at once, my immediate thought is tomato pie.

Photo from 2011.

A few months ago, a hacker hit my website, and the webmasters at my web host ended up deleting all of my old blog archives. I thought I had a backup but haven’t been able to find it. Earlier today, I linked on Facebook to Heather Solos’ wonderful recipe at Home-Ec 101, which is the basis of my recipe. But I made a few very minor changes, and I also like to write about the recipe. (Heather has also updated a couple of things about her recipe in the intervening years.) So I’m writing a new post from scratch.

I also did a YouTube video about tomato pie, but I’m a little self-conscious about it because it shows my crappy kitchen, and probably the crappy way I keep my kitchen as well.

Tomato pie is an amazing recipe, because it’s extremely simple in terms of the ingredient list, but somehow turns out to be greater than the sum of its parts. It sounds like a lot of work, especially as I am going to mansplain it, and I guess it is, but trust me on this one — it’s worth it. It is summer on a plate.

Here’s what you’ll need:

4 ripe medium tomatoes: I have Romas this week, which are smaller, so I am using more of them.

1 box of refrigerated pie crust (2 crusts to a box): Please note that I am NOT talking about frozen pie crusts, which are nowhere near as good. The refrigerated pie crusts are found near the Poppin’ Fresh biscuits, crescent rolls, etc. There are two crusts, individually wrapped, each one rolled up like a scroll. This is good, because we’ll need a bottom crust and a top crust for this recipe. If you are good with pastry, feel free to substitute your own homemade pie crust, but don’t use it as an excuse to put off making this pie. Strike while the tomatoes are ripe, and make no apologies. The refrigerated crust is just fine.

1/2 medium onion

1 1/2 cups shredded cheese: Heather recommends a mix of cheddar and jack. I normally use straight cheddar. For this purpose, you may shred your own or buy pre-shredded.

4 slices center-cut bacon: Heather calls for 3 slices of bacon. I had center-cut bacon in the fridge one of the first times I made the recipe, and I liked the thicker pieces. But center-cut bacon is usually shorter, so I use four slices.

3 tablespoons mayonnaise: Heather now lists cream cheese as an alternative. I haven’t tried it, but think the mayo works just fine and is more likely to be in your fridge.

1 teaspoon dried basil: Dried is fine, but buy a fresh container. The jar or can of basil in your cupboard has probably been sitting there for waaaay too long.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Job One is peeling and seeding the tomatoes. Seeding them is required; if you don’t remove the seeds (or, more specifically, the jelly that surrounds them) the pie filling will be far too watery, turning the bottom crust into goo. Peeling is a good idea, because otherwise the peels scroll up and get between your teeth. But if you don’t mind that, feel free to skip the peeling step. I will never know.

To peel the tomatoes, put a pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Drop a tomato into the boiling water, count to 10, and immediately remove it. Cut a little “X” in the skin with a sharp knife, and the skin should just peel right off, easy as pie. If a few small pieces cling around the stem end of the tomato, don’t worry about them.

After the tomatoes have been peeled, cut them into quarters. For Roma tomatoes like the ones I’ll use tomorrow, halving them may be sufficient. Squeeze the quarters or use a finger to scoop out the seeds. You want just the flesh of the tomato.

Once the tomatoes have been seeded, chop them into small pieces. Place them in a colander and toss them with salt and pepper. Place the colander over a bowl or in an empty sink and allow the tomatoes to drain for a bit, which also helps keep the pie from being too watery. (The liquid that drains out is salty, but also has some tomato flavor, so if you have a bottle of V8 or tomato juice in the fridge you might add the draining liquid rather than let it go to waste.)

Slice the onion very thinly.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Unscroll one of the pie crusts in the bottom of a glass or metal pie pan and carefully smooth it up against the bottom and sides of the pan. Add a layer of tomatoes, a layer of onion and a sprinkle of basil. Repeat with another layer of tomatoes, another layer of onion and another sprinkle of basil, until all of the tomatoes, onion and basil have been added.

Fry the bacon, drain, and crumble into small pieces. Combine with the mayonnaise and shredded cheese. Spread the cheese mixture over the tomatoes and onions. Unscroll the top crust, and pinch the edges of the top and bottom crusts together all around the perimeter of the pie. Use a fork to crimp the edges.

Using a sharp knife, cut a few vents in the top crust, cutting deeply, so that you get through the cheese layer to the tomato layer.

Bake for 45 minutes at 425 degrees. Check after 30 minutes; if the whole top crust seems to be overbrowning, put an upside-down pie tin or a circle of aluminum foil on it for the last 15 minutes of cooking.

Allow the pie to cool for 10 or 15 minutes before serving to keep it from running out everywhere (or just let it come to room temperature; it tastes great either way).

Photo from 2011.
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