Friday, July 22, 2011

Tomato & corn pie

Remember that song and dance I gave you yesterday about turning off your oven?

Well, uh, scratch that momentarily, but only if you have a functioning air conditioner in your residence.  I'm not trying to give anyone a heat stroke.  Besides, if you were too sick, you wouldn't be able to properly enjoy this mind numbingly-delicious tomato and corn pie.

(Can you tell I was trying to keep the apartment as cool as possible by closing the shades?  Oven on, shades closed.  A fair trade-off in my book.)

This time of year, my tastes have shifted from stews and meatloaves to anything littered with fresh fruits and vegetables.  I've even been known to forego cake and ice cream in favor of diced strawberries with a little whipped cream. The heat makes people do strange things, I tell you.

Strange like ignoring this recipe for the better part of a year.  Last summer my excuse was that it was simply too hot to turn on my oven.  Then, fall came and, just like that, tomatoes and corn were no longer overflowing on their displays at the market.  Winter was a no-go from the start -- anyone who has seen grocery store tomatoes in January knows what I'm talking about.  By the time spring rolled around, the anticipation was killing me, but I settled for distracting myself with asparagus and mushrooms.

Finally, after months of waiting, tomatoes were bright red and plump and sweet corn was just begging to be shucked in preparation for their nuptials.  Never tried corn and tomatoes together?  You're missing out!  I once made a corn and tomato omelet and was never the same after it.  But back to this pie.

The preparation takes a little time, but don't let that dissuade you.  The biscuit-like crust can be made ahead of time, and if you're really on the ball, you could have the corn cut, cheese grated, and tomatoes blanched and sliced, too.  It's one of those times that following the example of the food television hosts (and their vast staffs) really pays dividends later.  Hey, you know what?  This would be a great dish to make at a cooking party with friends, each person with a specific job.  It'd be fun, yes!

As with all layered projects, this pie is a good time to assemble, especially when you nibble a little cheese and corn here and there.  You know, for quality checks.

Gorgeous and delicious, it's the bee's knees, this pie.  Did I really just say bee's knees?  Again, blame it on the heat.  Or just chalk it up to how freakin' good this savory summery meal really is.  The sweet corn and tomatoes (with no chewy skins, hooray!) are smothered with lemony mayo and salty sharp cheddar cheese.  And the crust?  Somehow it manages to be both a pie crust and a fluffy flakey buttery biscuit.  It's simply magic, I tell you, m-a-g-i-c!  

Even if you don't have air conditioning, might I suggest befriending neighbors who do?  Throw together this pie and visit them "just to say hi and deliver something fresh out of the oven."  Hopefully, they'll invite you in to chat and savor what you've made, chatting and enjoying the pleasantly chilly air while giving your place a few hours to cool down.  They'll never see through your brilliant plans.  You can thank me later :)

One Year Ago: Polish haluski with bacon

Tomato and Corn Pie
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Gourmet, etc. etc.)
-makes one 9-inch pie

A few notes: As Deb says, peeling and seeding the tomatoes sound like steps added simply to create more work for the cook (you!), but I promise you that they are important to the final pie.  No skins to become chewy and string in the pie, and no seeds and juice to make a sloppy wet mess of the gorgeous creation.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 2 teaspoons melted
3/4 cup whole milk (I used 2% without any problem, but I wouldn't try with skim)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 3/4 pounds beefsteak tomatoes
1 1/2 cups corn (from about 3 ears), coarsely chopped by hand
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
7 ounces coarsely grated sharp white Cheddar (1 3/4 cups), divided

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then blend in cold butter (3/4 stick) with a fork or pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal.  Add milk, stirring with a rubber spatula until mixture just forms a dough, then gather into a ball. Divide dough in half.

(At this point, you can wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.  If using immediately, only keep one half of the dough in the fridge until you're ready to use it.)

Roll out one half of the dough on a well-floured counter into a 12-inch round (1/8 inch thick).  Draping the dough over a rolling pin, transfer it to the pie plate. Pat the dough in with your fingers trim any overhang.  (I added the excess to the chilling half of the dough.)

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.  Whisk together mayonnaise and lemon juice.

Cut an X in bottom of each tomato and blanch in a large pot of boiling water 10 seconds. Immediately transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to cool. Peel tomatoes, then slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick and gently remove seeds and extra juices. Arrange half of tomatoes in crust, overlapping, and sprinkle with half of corn, 1/2 tablespoon chives, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and one cup of grated cheese. Repeat layering with remaining tomatoes, corn, chives, salt, and pepper.  Pour lemon mayonnaise over filling and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Roll out remaining piece of dough into a 12-inch round in same manner, then fit over filling, folding overhang under edge of bottom crust and pinching edge to seal.  Cut 4 steam vents in top crust and brush crust with melted butter (2 teaspoons).  Bake pie until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes, then cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Do ahead: Pie can be baked 1 day ahead and chilled. Reheat in a 350°F oven until warm, about 30 minutes.

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