Sunday, August 16, 2009

'Mater Pie

We've come down here; down to the south. Down to the deep south, the Bible belt. It's hot as... well, so as not to offend any neighbors here, let's just say that it's hotter than a black dog on a sunny August day.
With this heat comes some excellent produce-- peaches, collards, watermelon, dandelion greens and my favourite, tomatoes. The ripest, juiciest, sweetest 'maters are being plucked from vines all across the States right now, in the dead heat of the summer.
The mister and I took our little ones to a hole-in-the-wall place for lunch the other day that we knew would be good as soon as we stepped inside the screen door. 98 F degrees, and no AC, just electric fans teatering precariously around the dining room filled with wooden picnic tables. A buffet of fried chicken, pit-cooked barbecue, smoked ribs, squash casserole and best of all, 'mater pie (tomato pie, to northerners).
It was delicious, even better than the cast-iron skillet fried chicken, and it inspired me to develop this recipe for supper that same night.

3 very ripe tomatoes, sliced in 1 cm. slices
1 small red onion, minced fine
About 1/2 cup real mayonnaise (Dukes if you can get it, otherwise, Hellman's)
Couple of handfuls of sharp, shredded cheddar cheese
One sleeve Ritz or Townhouse buttery crackers, smashed into crumbs
Sea or kosher salt
2 tablespoons melted butter

1) Slice the 'maters and sprinkle with sea salt. Allow to drain in a single layer in a colander or in a plate (draining away the juice). Allow to sit and drain for 20 minutes to an hour. Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

2) Spray the pie plate with Pam or lightly grease with butter or vegetable oil. Layer in the tomatoes, then pile on the minced onions, spread with mayo and sprinkle over cheese (don't be shy with the cheese now, hear?), finally top with the cracker crumbs and drizzle over melted butter.

3) Bake for about 45 minutes, until the pie bubbles a bit. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Serves 6-8 portions

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