Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tomato Pie

There comes a time in every man's life when he must admit he's wrong. Actually, there come many times; and every so often he must also admit a partial defeat. My tomato pie defeated me tonight. Years ago I made a caramelized onion tart with some sweet onions I pulled from my garden that day. The grace of God must have been with me, because my tart dough or pate brisee came out perfectly. Beginner's luck.

Skip forward many years, and find me toying around with this tomato pie recipe. Find me defeated by pate brisee. In any case, this is how I went about building it.

I started out with a load of small tomatoes, approximately 1.5 pounds, all different varieties. I rinsed them and halved each one, and tossed the lot of them in some olive oil, dried rosemary leaves, salt, pepper (a lot), one halved onion, and I popped all of it into a fairly cool oven, right around 200 degrees, until most of the moisture had evaporated. Take a look (sans onion):

At this point I was still fairly excited about the tomato pie. I had all the ingredients and most of the enthusiasm any cook needs to undertake a new culinary adventure. I opened up my hard-bound copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," and studied the pastry dough section. The book was first published in a time when the American audience was not privy to the sophisticated variety of edibles that today's audience is. Huh? Julia's recipe calls for all purpose flour instead of pastry flour. I checked another book, the Culinary Institute of America textbook. No help there. In the end I decided to trust my intuition, and I set out to making my 3-2-1 dough, half AP flour, half pastry flour.

The pastry dough recipe is very simple, but since I am not an expert, I recommend some personal research on your behalf. Basically, you need flour, fat (butter, lard, shortening, or a combination), and water, and a little bit of salt. You cut your butter into half-inch cubes and begin working it into the flour with your thumbs. When your dough is mealy, add the water (with the salt dissolved in it), do some gentle kneading, and form it into a ball. Julia then recommends a final technique. You kind of smear the dough across your work surface, bit by bit, and then gather back together again. Finally, chill it for one hour in the freezer, wrapped in wax paper.

Ah, the tomatoes are done roasting. To these you add some grated Parmesan cheese (I added nearly half a cup to bind the mess), even more pepper, and salt to taste. In the meantime, you remove your chilled dough and begin to roll it out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Lay your dough into your pan; cover it with foil; fill the inside with dried beans (to weigh it down); and par bake it at 400 degrees for at least ten minutes. Then, when your shell is properly par baked, begin filling the thing with your roasted tomatoes, and bake until the tomatoes are mostly set. I went ahead and made a divot in the middle of the tart and cracked an egg into it. Note, the egg cooked faster than the tomatoes. Skip the egg, or wait until the last ten minutes of cooking before you plop it onto your tart.

The next morning:
Well, feeling refreshed, I had another go at it. I returned it to the oven and made it the corner of my breakfast. The tomatoes deepened even more, and the crust browned nicely. To go with this...some more tomato! Terrible. Tomato overload. Don't expect to see another fruit of gold (pomodoro) on this blog for a while.


Dr. Crowbar said...

I picked up both volumes of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" about 6 month ago for $3. Great reading. I love cookbooks that can be read like a novel. See also "The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook".

Jono Tosch said...

It turns out I made good dough, but my bad attitude and tiredness stopped me from par baking it properly.