Tomato Pie for a Crowd

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Tomato Pie, like Pimiento Cheese, is one of many fabulous culinary treasures of the South. Basic tomato pies combine the goodness of ripe tomatoes, with melted cheese and a crunchy pie crust. If you add to that bacon, onions, basil, and cheese in the crust, now you’re talking about a DELUXE and savory tomato pie.

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Like for pimiento cheese, there are many ways to make a tomato pie. Some have the cheese on the bottom, and the tomatoes on top and some have it reversed.

 

The key to making a great tomato pie, in fact, the only must-do after you gather colorful heirloom tomatoes (see Tomatoes: The Crown Jewels of the Summer Kitchen Garden)


is to core, slice, salt, and drain the tomatoes to divest them of their watery juice and thereby prevent a soupy, soggy, messy pie.

My favorite way to make tomato pie is with a crunchy cheese crust and tomatoes that are piled high and deep on top.

This pie’s problems are that there is never enough to go around, definitely not enough for seconds, and too many calories in the crust for an “everyday” meal. To fix these problems, I first tried to develop a larger pie (lasagna pan-sized) without a crust. However, I found the soft texture of the tomatoes and melted cheese demanded a crunchy crust, so I added the crust back, but only on the bottom, and loaded the dough with nutty parmesan cheese. My family loved it.

Yield: Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan, 10-12 servings

Pie Crust Ingredients

¼ cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup grated parmesan, somewhat packed
1 stick (½ cup) very cold or frozen butter, sliced into many pieces
4 tablespoons ice-cold water

Tomato Filling Ingredients

5 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 teaspoon sea salt
12 ounces unflavored bacon, about 12 strips
1 pound sweet onion (red or yellow), sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup homemade breadcrumbs
20 large or 30 medium-large leaves basil, chiffonade
½ cup mayonnaise (not the low-fat, sweet, or whipped varieties)
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded

Game Plan
I’m not going to lie about the amount of prep work needed for this recipe; this pie takes time. I streamlined the process by buying already shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese and by using homemade breadcrumbs from a stash in the freezer. As a time-saver, you could forego the homemade cheese crust and use a single layer, pre-made roll of uncooked dough, reshaped to fit in a 9 x 13 pan. Or, you could make the cheese crust version the day before and store it uncooked in the fridge.

1) Prep Mise en Place for Pie Filling

Slice tomatoes about ⅓ inch thick. Place in a colander, add 1 teaspoon of salt and gently mix to distribute the salt. Place a weighted object on top of the tomatoes to help squeeze out the juice. I put a collection bowl under the colander to capture the juice and save for something else (like soup broth). Gently stir and squeeze the tomatoes every 5 or 10 minutes. Let them continue to drain while you finish the prep work.

 

Chop the bacon into two-inch pieces. Sauté until cooked, then drain the fat, and pat the bacon dry with paper towels.

 Thinly slice the onions. Salt very lightly with a pinch of salt and sauté in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.

 

If you don’t have a stash of homemade breadcrumbs​ in the freezer, make some now in the food processor.

Stack, roll and cut basil into thin ribbons.

 

2. Prep Mise en Place for Pie Crust

3. Make the Pie Crust
Add the flour, cornmeal, salt, and parmesan to a food processor with the regular blade attached. Pulse 2 or 3 times to blend. Add the butter slices and pulse 7 or 8 times until you can see little chunks of butter covered in flour and meal.

Add the chilled water and pulse a few more times until dough is just blended and forms pea-sized balls. I know this doesn’t look like it is blended enough, but as those little balls melt, they create steam that causes the puffiness in a flaky crust. We want them to melt in the oven and not in the food processor which is why we keep the dough cold and underworked.

Dump the crumbly dough onto a sheet of parchment paper. Fold the right side of the paper over the dough and roll it with a rolling-pin. Now fold the left third of the paper over the dough and roll again. Notice how you can still see the chunks of white butter in the dough in the third picture.

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Roll the dough out, between two sheets of parchment paper until it is at least 9 x 13 inches.  Test for proper size by laying the pan over the dough to see if it fits.

Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and flip the dough over into the baking pan. Center the dough by using the edges of the top sheet of parchment paper. Once centered, remove the top sheet of paper.

Trim the dough and use the trimmed pieces to patch the crust until it fits in the pan neatly. Use the tines of a fork to poke holes in the crust. Lots of holes. This allows air to escape while baking, so you don’t end up with a lot of air bubbles.

Preheat the oven 375º. While it heats, place the dough-lined pan in the fridge to chill for the 15-20 minutes it takes to heat the oven. This is a necessary chilling period.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. About 10 minutes into cooking, open the oven door and add a few more fork pricks into any bubbles that have formed in the crust. Allow crust to cool for 5-10 minutes before filling. Remember, the goal is not to have a soggy crust once we add the filling. Therefore, some cooling down is necessary.

4. Prepare the Tomato Pie Fillings
While the crust is cooking, remove the tomatoes from the colander and gently squeeze out the excess moisture with your hands. Pat the tomatoes dry with paper towels.

Combine the mayonnaise, cheeses, and basil in a mixing bowl. Stir in the onions (red or yellow) and bread crumbs.

5. Assemble and Bake the Pie
Here’s what you have now: tomatoes, cheese and onion mixture, bacon and cooked cheese pie crust.

Add the cheese filling to the cooled crust and then add the bacon.

Arrange the tomatoes over the top. Lightly drizzle a little olive oil over the tomatoes and some cracked pepper and sea salt.

Bake for 50-60 minutes. Pie is done when the filling is bubbling, and the tomatoes are lightly browned.

Dinner is served!

Related Tomato Posts
Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta
Gazpacho Galore
Roasted Ratatouille
Roasted Roma Tomatoes

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe. Thanks!

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Brooks’ Pork Tenderloin with an Amazing Marinade

The first time I tasted my friend Brooks’s kickass grilled pork tenderloin was at a funeral reception. Good friend that Brooks is to so many, she showed up at the reception with a platterful of sliced, perfectly cooked and beautifully seasoned grilled pork tenderloins. A few days later, I called her for the recipe. I wrote the list of ingredients down on a piece of scrap paper and then promptly misplaced it. That was ten years ago, 1/18/06. I know this because I wrote the date on the piece of scrap paper. You would think someone who is meticulous enough to date scrap paper would have a decent method for saving it.

I thought of Brooks’s juicy and flavorful recipe every time I cooked pork using my pathetic but quick get-some-food-on-the-table-after-driving-boys-around-all-afternoon method of throwing two pork tenderloins into a bag with a salty steak marinade and roasting them at 400º until they were very well-done. In fact, the pork was so salty and dry; I quit making pork tenderloins all together for years. That was until Brooks’s recipe resurfaced a few weeks ago and I learned more about how to cook delicious pork tenderloins to the right temperature.

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Let’s talk about how pork came to be the dry, well-done other white meat and not the juicy, tender pink meat we enjoy now.

Trichinosis; It’s no longer a health epidemic 

I grew up in the 60s and 70s. My mother and her mother before her cooked pork until it was well-done. They did so because of the prevailing fear of an illness known as Trichinellosis, aka Trichinosis, which came from the ingestion of parasitic roundworms known as Trichinella spiralis. Trichinae were found most commonly in the muscle tissue of pigs and wild game. The U.S. Public Health Service started counting incidents of Trichinellosis in the mid-1940s, around the time my mother was coming of age. At the time, 400-500 cases were reported each year, nationally. Because of my mother and grandmother’s respect for and fear of this malady, I knew the word Trichinosis as a ten-year-old. It translated into a disease that could surely kill you dead if you did not cook pork until it was well-done, the only way to destroy the heavily encapsulated parasitic worms.

This all begs the question, Where were pigs picking up this parasite?  The answer was garbage. In the old days, many pigs were fed raw garbage on pig farms. In the 50s and 60s, food laws changed, and the government said the garbage needed to be cooked, and BTW, no more feeding animal carcasses to pigs, raw or cooked. New farm hygiene protocols were also established and rodents, like rats and raccoons, were no longer allowed to have access to the pig pen.

Along with tighter control over pig farm hygiene, the government embarked on a massive publicity campaign instructing Americans to cook pork until it was well-done. The message stuck. Interestingly, in 1987, another ad campaign came along, this time from the National Pork Board, to pitch pork as a white meat alternative to chicken and turkey,  “Pork. The other white meat.” That slogan only served to reinforce the concept of cooking pork until it was white and well-done.

Technique Time: Heat Transfer

So, if you don’t need to overcook pork anymore, to what internal temperature should you cook it to get a moist, light pink center? The U.S.D.A says a minimum of 145º for all pork roasts and 160º for ground pork and patties. When using a meat thermometer, it should always be inserted into the thickest part of the loin without touching any bones. Finally, let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. During this time the internal temperature of the meat will rise by about five degrees and finish cooking the meat to 150º. Theoretically, you could cook the meat to 140º and let it finish off to 145º, but I tried that and it was too pink and chewy.

This five-degree temperature increase that happens when cooked meat rests is due to the rules of heat transfer. The temperature on the surface of the meat when you pull it out of the oven is the same as the inside of the oven, in this case, 400º. If the room temperature is 70º, the heat on the surface of the pork has to go somewhere for the meat’s temperature to equilibrate with the room temperature. Some of that heat is released into the room, and some goes back into the center of the meat, raising its internal temperature to 150º.

Back to the recipe

When I finally got the chance to make Brooks’s marinade recipe last month, a full ten years later, it wasn’t as kick-assy as I remembered. I think I had mismeasured on the side of timidity when it came to gauging how much was a glug of this or a dollop of that  (Brooks’s measurement terms!). I called Brooks for clarification and to ask if I could blog the recipe. The conversation started like this, “Brooks, do you remember making pork tenderloins for Buck’s mother’s funeral TEN years ago? [Yes.] Are you still making them the same way?” [Yes.] To my surprise and amusement, she told me her newly-wed son Alex had just called her for the very same recipe, so the ingredients were fresh on her mind. That, Dear Reader, is what keeper-recipes and motherful moments in cooking are all about.

Yield: 1¼ cups marinade good for 2-3 pounds of meat or two logs

Ingredients:

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¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup bourbon or rye
2  teaspoons “Tamari” Soy Sauce (a refined, more delicate, gluten-free soy)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 slightly heaping tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon Beau Monde Seasoning (a savory blend of salt and spices made by Spice Islands)
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
10 peppercorns
Pinch of crushed red pepper
¼ cup brown sugar
5-8 large garlic cloves, sliced
5-6 stems fresh thyme, coarsely chopped (I use lemon thyme)
Zest and juice of one lemon
A dollop of cognac (optional)
2-3 pounds (2 logs) pork tenderloin, rinsed and patted dry

Instructions:

Remove pork tenderloins from the package. Rinse under cold water and pat dry.

Into a two cup liquid measure, add olive oil to the ¼ cup mark, then add bourbon to the ½ cup mark, and then all the other ingredients: Tamari, Worcestershire, Dijon, Beau Monde, red and black peppers, peppercorns, brown sugar, garlic, the zest and juice of one lemon, and the thyme. Do not add salt. There is plenty of salt in the Tamari, Worcestershire, Dijon, and Beau Monde. Stir marinade with a fork, being sure to mix in the brown sugar that settles to the bottom.

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Mix pork and marinade together and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for eight hours or overnight. Turn it over and massage it every few hours.

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Cook in a preheated 400º oven, or on the grill at the same temperature. Cook ten minutes on one side and turn over. Cook for another ten minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers at least 145º. Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving. Our favorite degree of doneness was 148º with a rise to 154º on the meat thermometer.

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Even at 154º, the meat is still pink.

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If you would like a saltier more robust pork tenderloin, increase the Tamari and Worcestershire Sauce to 1 tablespoon of each. My sons liked it that way, but I thought the saltiness was overpowering.

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Related Posts
Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts
Mom’s Marinated and Grilled Lamb
Mom’s Roasted Lamb with Herb and Goat Cheese Topping
Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Brooks’s Pork Tenderloin Marinade

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Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts

When I wake up in the morning a little panic-stricken thinking about what I’m going to prepare for a large crowd coming in for a holiday weekend, I approach the menu by considering my entrée options first. My go-to’s are grilled Premio Sweet Italian Sausage from Costco, Brooks’s Marinated Pork Tenderloin, and marinated chicken breasts.

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Next, I consider my sides, which I prepare depending on what is in season. Often, though, I delegate the sides to guests. The beauty of this approach is you get to try other people’s specialties, and that is always a fun and tasty option. Desserts are my favorite food to cook, and for a large crowd, I like to make a hotel-sized pan of the ever crowd-pleasing Pumpkin Bread Pudding only made with seasonal fruit instead of pumpkin, and either Italian Sesame Seed Cookies.

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or Ricotta and Lemon Cookies.

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I was never a fan of grilled chicken breasts until I saw my friend from Tiverton, R.I., Sheila, a master at feeding huge crowds, carry Ziploc bags full of pounded-flat marinated chicken breasts out to the grill. By pounding the breasts flat Sheila could ensure the chicken would cook quickly and evenly throughout. I’ve been pounding chicken breasts ever since.

Ingredients:

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Whole chicken breasts (for these photos, I made 24 breasts equalling 8 pounds)
@JudysChickens Everyday Salad Dressing
1-2 lemons, sliced thinly (depends on how much chicken you are preparing)
10 stems of thyme, rough chopped
a couple shakes of white balsamic vinegar, if you have it.

Instructions:

Rinse chicken breasts and trim fat.

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Pat dry with paper towels.

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Place each chicken breast in a thick bag and pound flat with the smooth side of a meat mallet.

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Marinate pounded breasts in @JudysChickens Salad Dressing along with lots of sliced lemons and sprigs of thyme. You could add a little white balsamic vinegar and Grey Poupon for even more flavor if desired. Allow to marinate for a few hours to up to two days.

Grill for no longer than ten minutes.

Favorite Flavor-Enhancers: The Acids!

My mother always kept a bottle each of white and red balsamic vinegar in the fridge. She especially loved the white. Add a few shakes of white to the marinade for an extra burst of flavor.
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Other Foods That Are Good To Serve At A Cookout
Sliced Beet Salad
String Bean Salad
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Marlin’s Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Grandma’s Italian Fried Cauliflower
“Croatian Cheese” a Flavorful and Exotic Appetizer Made with Feta and Goat Cheese
The Classic Pimiento Cheese Sandwich

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

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Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Mom’s Marinated and Grilled Lamb

Mom had two ways of cooking lamb, roasted, the Easter Sunday wayor marinated and grilled, the everyday and sometimes Easter Sunday way. The marinade recipe she often used was from my stepfather’s cousin, Lynn Alpert.
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We all know how you get a good recipe, “Mom, this lamb is soo good. How did you make it?” you say as you look for a piece of paper and a pen. Being the recipe keeper for the family, I usually traveled with my Recipe Collector’s Notebook published by Workman Publishing in the early 1980’s. If there was ever a book filled with Dirty Pages, it is this one.
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I used it to record recipes as Mom cooked during summer and holiday trips. Cooking fresh vegetables in beautiful ways was Mom’s thing; I learned from the master.
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Please refer to the post Mom’s Roasted Lamb with Herb and Goat Cheese Topping for detailed instructions on how to prepare a leg of lamb for cooking.

Ingredients:
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1  3 to 5-pound boned leg of lamb
¼ cup onion, diced
½ cup Major Grey’s Chutney
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Mise en Place:
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Instructions:

Trim fat from lamb per instructions from the previous post.
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Pierce meat with a sharp knife to allow marinade to seep into the tough leg muscles.
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Mix marinade ingredients together in a small measuring cup.
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Put lamb and marinade in a gallon-sized plastic bag and turn bag all around until the meat is well-coated. Refrigerate for 24 hours turning regularly.
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Grilling Meat

This is not my domain. My stepfather, Joel, is the master griller in our family. My husband, brothers, and sons have all learned from him. Because he IS so good, wherever he goes he gets tasked with grilling.
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While my experienced stepfather doesn’t need a meat thermometer to know when meat is cooked, those in training might want to start with one. The key to grilling meat is to remember that food continues to cook and reabsorb juices for a good fifteen minutes after it comes off the grill. You can read about allowing meat to rest here.

Back in Nashville, my husband turned the meat many times as it cooked. When the meat thermometer read 140º in the thickest piece, he removed it from the grill, covered it with foil, and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing. The results were amazing.
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If you would like to try dying eggs using natural dyes made from cooked vegetable skins, look here.
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Or, maybe, while you have jellybeans in the house, you would like to teach your children about the sense of smell. Check this post out.

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.