I have been writing about Southern foodways for over ten years, and it’s been a long time since I was surprised by a recipe I hadn’t heard of before. Sure, every so often you find a variation on a recipe that is novel like the Louisiana idea of putting potato salad in gumbo, but I recently heard of tomato pie. When I mentioned the idea of tomato pie to my culinary friends, none were surprised at the recipe, but all were surprised I had never heard of it before.
How did I go all these years and not know of something my friends say is basic and commonplace? I have no idea, but I sure am glad I found it. The recipe is pretty simple: pre-bake a frozen pie shell, mix cheese and mayo (I like to add a diced jalapeno), slice 4 or 5 big, ripe tomatoes, salt and let drain in a colander for an hour or two. Give the colander a good shake every once in a while. Too much moisture will ruin the pie. Layer the tomatoes in the pie shell, (remember they will cook down quite a bit), add chopped basil, add the cheese mayo mixture, and top with more basil. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes or when the pie starts to brown. Let cool but eat warm.
I love this recipe and think that tomato pie is going to be something I serve to my Sunday brunch guests. As always the case, the quality of the ingredients you use is all-important. Use field-grown tomatoes from the farmer’s market. They are always far better than store-bought. The quality of the cheese is also important. I used an imported English cheddar, which is assertive enough that a little goes a long way. If you use a mild American cheddar or other cheese, you may have to use more. I also saw several recipes online that called for a mixture of cheeses. It’s not a bad idea at all. I really do like the addition of seeded jalapenos and think pickled jalapenos would be good too. I also think that a good, smoky bacon like Benton’s (available online only) would be a great addition.
As I mentioned above, serve this pie warm; cold just won’t get it. I would also suggest a dry white wine like a German Riesling. Remember to look at the alcohol content: the lower the alcohol, the sweeter the wine. Tomato pie keeps well in the refrigerator but just make sure to warm it up before serving.