It’s now or never with the tomato recipes, folks, we have to make hay while the sun shines…so here’s one I’ve had in the back of my mind all season. This is a true regional recipe, and from what I can tell the classic Southern Tomato Pie is claimed by many states, but I first heard about it in North Carolina, where it’s almost a religion.
It’s the stuff of midnight cravings, and it’s really simple to put together. If you use a ready-made pie crust you can make it before your drool hits the counter. If you make the Vodka Crust it will be a labor of love, but one that will reward you many times over.
Use big juicy heirloom tomatoes, like I did, or good old fashioned red ones. Some Southern cooks use green tomatoes. Any way is good, as long as they’re at the peak of their season.
Yeah it has a cup of mayo and 2 cups of cheese in it, what’s your point? It also has fresh basil, vidalia onion, and lots of fresh tomatoes, and I’m going on the assumption that you’re not going to be eating the whole pie yourself!
This is my first time making this, but it won’t be my last. Variations to follow, for sure (bacon, fresh corn, gourmet cheeses.) But to start I tweaked Paula Deen’s basic recipe, which seems to be the standard.
Southern Tomato Pie
oven to 375
one very cold unbaked crust in a 9 inch tart or pie plate (recipe below)
4 or 5 ripe heirloom tomatoes
- Slice the tomatoes thickly, and lay them in a colander, salting lightly between layers. Set the tomatoes to drain. If you don’t have a colander, use a thick layer of paper towels.
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 oz)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz)
salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- Mix the mayo with the cheeses and season with salt and lots of pepper.
10-12 large basil leaves
1/2 small vidalia onion
- Stack the basil leaves, roll up the long way like a cigar, and thinly slice it into fine ribbons.
- Cut the 1/2 onion in half again and slice it as finely as you can.
- Take your pie crust from the freezer and lay out half of the onion slices on the bottom.
- Layer half the tomatoes on top, then scatter the rest of the onions on top of them. Cover with a second layer of tomatoes, and sprinkle the basil evenly over all.
- Spoon the mayo topping over the tomatoes in large blobs. Then carefully spread the topping evenly over the pie. Don’t press down too much.
- Bake for abut 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown.
- Cool before slicing, if you can possibly wait. Traditionally this is served cold, but I enjoyed it warm from the oven.
The crust is an interesting story in itself. A friend and blogging buddy served it to me the other day in the form of an amazing apple pie. Her focus is on baking, and she has a passion for the science behind it all. The crust was unusually tender and flaky and it turns out that vodka is the secret ingredient. And it’s not just a gimmick. The problem with pie crusts is that the water needed to moisten the dough also develops gluten in the flour, which can make them tough. Apparently alcohol doesn’t do that, so you end up with a very tender crust. The idea seems to have originated with Cooks Illustrated. My friend’s recipe is a variation and the only downside I found is that it’s a little tough to work with; you have to be willing to repair cracks and patch it like crazy. I’m still on the fence about whether this crust will take the place of my go-to crust, but I can’t argue with the end result. I’ll have to make a few more pies before I make my decision ;)
Vodka Pie Crust ~~~slightly adapted from Fragments of Sulpicia
makes 2 crusts
1 3/4 cups of bleached all-purpose flour (bleached will make the crust more tender without it falling apart)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
- Put the flour salt and sugar in the bowl of a processor and pulse to blend.
3/4 cups butter, cold
- Add in the cold butter and pulse about 20 times, or until the mixture has a coarse crumb texture.
2 Tbsp cold vodka2-4 Tbsp cold water
- Add in the vodka, a tablespoon at a time, pulsing repeatedly. Then add just enough water to get the dough moist but not wet. You don’t want the dough to come together in a ball, you will have to stop the machine and press a bit together with your fingers, if it holds, it’s done. I used 4 tablespoons.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and work with it just enough to bring it together in a smooth ball. Divide the dough in 2 pieces and form them into flat round disks. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.
- Roll out one of the disks on a floured surface. If your dough cracks just keep repairing it as you go, it won’t affect the final product. Fit into your tart or pie dish.
- Put the dish in the freezer while you put together your Tomato Pie.
What have you been doing with your summer tomatoes?