Thursday, August 27, 2009

tomato and corn pie

tomato and corn pie

Let me tell you about something that always happens, and it’s the best thing, ever: A month or so ago, a reader emailed me and asked me if I’d ever tried a tomato pie. No, not the Italian-American tomato pie seen in New York and New Jersey — a thick, bready pizza dough slathered with sauce and broiled with Romano cheese on top then served in squares — but a Southern thing, baked in a pie shell. Where I’m from, “tomato pie” is the Italian-ish thing I’ve described it above, thus I responded that I’ve never heard of it before and added “but mark my words, not two days after I send off this email, I will have heard about it three times.”

white cornbeefsteak!peeled, sliced beefsteak tomatoesfresh white corn

Sure enough, tomato pie is everywhere this summer. I’ve seen a version from Paula Deen, Elise has a version up at Simply Recipes and my good old August Gourmet magazine — as packed with an impossible level of late-summer inspiration — adapts Laurie Colwin’s (remember her? We love her.) and James Beard’s (remember him? We love him.) nearly 20 year old version to include market-fresh corn, and updating the crust with a biscuit-like dough.

all piled up

People, this is so good, it defies gushing. There’s no way to describe the surprise I felt when I lured my friend Dave over on Tuesday to be a “recipe guinea pig” and we both approached this cheesy mayo and corn confection with what I’d think is an understandable level of caution and proceeded to finish almost half of it. HALF. I haven’t had an appetite to finish seconds of anything since I’ve been pregnant, but here I was, with barely the willpower to talk myself out of thirds. Thirds! Who am I?

ready to bake

And now? Now I’m just going to stop talking about this because I don’t want you to be bogged down with any more needling words. I want you to stop what you’re doing, head to the nearest market as soon as humanly possible, grab yourself two giant beefsteak tomatoes, a few ears of corn, block of cheddar, some fresh chives and basil, breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve already got some butter, milk, lemon and mayo on hand (you do, don’t you?) and go home and make this for dinner. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a slice leftover for breakfast. If your friends are lucky, you’ll share with them. But I wouldn’t bank on it. Really, they can make their own.

tomato and corn pie

One year ago: Marinated Eggplant with Capers and Mint
Two years ago: Double Chocolate Torte

Tomato and Corn Pie
Adapted from Gourmet, August 2009

A few notes: First, butter-brushed biscuit-crusted savory pie, where have you been my whole life? I’ve been living on the wrong side of the Mason-Dixon line, clearly. Second, this recipe works exactly as-is, save one irksome issue: our pie was a puddle when we cut into it. I simply poured off the crust-sogging liquid, but I’d advise you to instead seed and juice your tomatoes if you bear it (I hate tossing the most flavorful parts, personally) or risk a mushy base. Third, this pie includes the curious instruction to peeling your tomatoes, which I first dismissed as an annoying extra step but in the end felt that it was absolutely brilliant. No chewy separating tomato skins! Just pure, instense peak-season tomato goodness. Consider me converted.

Adapted, barely, from Gourmet’s adaptation of Laurie Colwin’s and Jame’s Beard’s versions

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons or 3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 2 teaspoons melted
3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 3/4 pounds beefsteak tomatoes
1 1/2 cups corn (from about 3 ears), coarsely chopped by hand (my preference) or lightly puréed in a food processor, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil, divided (skipped this, no harm was done)
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
7ounces coarsely grated sharp Cheddar (1 3/4 cups), divided

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 3/4 tsp salt in a bowl, then blend in cold butter (3/4 stick) with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until mixture just forms a dough, then gather into a ball.

Divide dough in half and roll out one piece on a well-floured counter (my choice) or between two sheets of plastic wrap (the recipe’s suggestion, but I imagined it would annoyingly stick to the plastic) into a 12-inch round (1/8 inch thick). Either fold the round gently in quarters, lift it into a 9-inch pie plate and gently unfold and center it or, if you’re using the plastic warp method, remove top sheet of plastic wrap, then lift dough using bottom sheet of plastic wrap and invert into pie plate. Pat the dough in with your fingers trim any overhang.

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. If your kitchen is excessively warm, as ours is, go ahead and put the second half of the dough in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Whisk together mayonnaise and lemon juice.

Cut an X in bottom of each tomato and blanch in a large pot of boiling water 10 seconds. Immediately transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to cool. Peel tomatoes, then slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick and, if desired (see Notes above recipe), gently remove seeds and extra juices. Arrange half of tomatoes in crust, overlapping, and sprinkle with half of corn, one tablespoon basil, 1/2 tablespoon chives, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and one cup of grated cheese. Repeat layering with remaining tomatoes, corn, basil, chives, salt, and pepper. Pour lemon mayonnaise over filling and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Roll out remaining piece of dough into a 12-inch round in same manner, then fit over filling, folding overhang under edge of bottom crust and pinching edge to seal. Cut 4 steam vents in top crust and brush crust with melted butter (2 teaspoons). Bake pie until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes, then cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Do ahead: Pie can be baked 1 day ahead and chilled. Reheat in a 350°F oven until warm, about 30 minutes.

An idea: Want to slab pie this and serve it to a crowd? I agree, it would be brilliant. This is how I’d approach it: Make 1 1/2 batches of the crust (slab pies require more crust for the same amount of filling) and arrange the filling in one layer instead of two in a parchment-lined 15x10x1-inch pan. Increase the amount of butter you brush the top with to a tablespoon or two and the baking time to about 45 minutes (this is an estimate, you should take it out when it is golden and the filling is bubbling). Be sure to remove the tomato seeds; that extra wetness could make for a slab pie mess.


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