At the height of tomato season, this savory slab pie is a delicious reminder that you don’t have to burn out on salsa and sauce.
We’ve officially arrived in the season of late summer abundance, when food ripens faster than it can possibly be consumed. Every afternoon I’m greeted by a new, sunny cluster of ripe Garden Peach tomatoes on my lone tomato plant.
I’ve been using the fruit, bursting with sweetness, in every way I can think of. So far, I’m (mostly) keeping up. But when it comes to finding creative ways for using garden-fresh food, Storey authors reign supreme. Yes, there are endless variations on sauces and salsas and salads and gazpachos and pickles. We dehydrate them and freeze them and can them. Cookbook author and teacher Andrea Chesman graciously shares her top ten tips for tomato season. Brooke Dojny likes hers roasted. Beth Bader suggests a flavorful soup recipe inspired by a Thai vendor at her farmers’ market that meets all her requirements for eating local. Nan Chase says wine is a legitimate coping mechanism for managing oversupply. And for those who love breakfast any time of day, there are tomato pancakes.
In another play on the mingling of savory where we might expect sweet, Ken Haedrich’s recipe for Tomato Slab Pie from The Harvest Baker is a big love letter to this time of year. “A slab pie,” Ken writes, “be it savory or sweet, refers to any pie that’s baked in a jelly roll pan instead of a round pan. There are advantages to this architectural arrangement, perhaps the most important being that for roughly the same amount of effort, you end up with an attractive dish that serves 12 to 15 people instead of the usual 8 to 10.” That alone would make this recipe perfect for when you need to bring something to a potluck. The fact that it’s delicious makes it well worth adding to your repertoire.
— Emily Spiegelman, Digital Content Manager
Slab Pie Dough (and Shell)
If there’s a bit of a challenge to assembling a slab pie, it’s getting the oversized dough rolled out and into the pan without incident. If you prefer, this can be done in two stages by halving the dough and rolling the pieces separately (see Tip #1). It’s important to use the right jelly roll pan here, one that’s 15 by 10 inches and 1 inch high. Unless the sides are a full 1 inch, your fillings are likely to spill over the sides.
Makes one large slab pie shell
- Butter for the pan
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cups (2½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ½–⅔ cup cold water
- Combine the flour, confectioners’ sugar (or cornstarch), and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk briefly to combine, then refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes. Put the butter cubes on a plate, and refrigerate along with the flour mixture. Butter a 15- by 10- by 1-inch jelly roll pan very lightly with soft butter. If it is a nonstick pan, no buttering is necessary.
- When you’re ready to mix the dough, transfer the dry ingredients to a food processor; pulse several times to mix. Remove the lid and scatter all the butter over the dry ingredients. Pulse the machine 10 to 12 times, until the butter is broken into split pea–size pieces.
- Add half of the water through the feed tube in an approximate 5-second stream, pulsing the machine repeatedly as you pour. Stop the machine, remove the lid, and fluff the mixture with a fork, pulling it up from the bottom. This loosens the mixture; the machine tends to compact it. Replace the lid, and add most of the remaining liquid in the same manner, pulsing as you add it. When you still have a couple of tablespoons of water left, remove the lid and check the dough; it should hold together easily when you press it between your fingers. If it’s still quite crumbly, add the remaining water and pulse a few more times. By now the dough should be coming together in good-size clumps.
- Dump the mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape and compact the dough into a rectangle roughly 11/4 inches thick. Tear off a sheet of plastic wrap about 24 inches long. Flour it lightly, and put the dough in the center of it. Dust the top of the dough with flour, and gently — because the dough will be soft — roll it out a little bit to increase the size of the rectangle. It should still be pretty thick, perhaps 3/4 inch. This is simply a preliminary rolling/shaping to take the dough a step in the right direction. Square up the sides and corners as best you can to make it easier to roll out a rectangle later. Wrap the dough up in the plastic, slide it onto a small baking sheet, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Longer is fine.
- When you’re ready to roll the dough, unwrap it and dust the top lightly with flour. Invert the dough onto a 24-inch-long sheet of waxed paper; you could also use a fresh piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper if you prefer. Roll out the dough into an 18- by 13-inch rectangle. Invert it into the pan, or slide it in. Center it, and tuck the dough into the pan so it fits like a glove. If you have excess dough hanging over, fold it and press it against the sides to beef up the edge of the pastry. Refrigerate the shell for at least 1 hour, or freeze for 30 minutes, before filling and baking. Keep it cold until right before filling.
To make the dough by hand:
If you would rather make the dough by hand, proceed as above, but refrigerate the flour mixture and butter for only 15 minutes. Add the butter to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until it is broken into split pea–size pieces. Sprinkle in half of the water and lightly mix it in with a fork. Repeat, adding another 2 tablespoons of water. Add the remaining water, about 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed, mixing the dough until it forms crumbs that just hold together when pressed between your fingers. Shape, refrigerate, and roll as above.
If you’d rather not work with such a big piece of dough all at once, divide the dough in half and shape each half into a thick rectangle. Using the same approach as in step 4, lightly roll the dough into two thick rectangles. Wrap, and refrigerate them for 1½ to 2 hours. Roll each one into an 11- by 8½-inch rectangle. Place them in the pan so that they overlap in the middle; press to seal, and proceed as above.
For slightly easier rolling, and a more tender dough, substitute 4 tablespoons cold Crisco for the ½ stick of butter. Use spoonful-size pieces and add them to the processor along with the butter.
Tomato Slab Pie
This all-tomato slab pie, finished with a dusting of snipped chives and garlic, is as good as you’ll encounter. The tomatoes are enhanced by a generous coat of Dijon mustard on the crust, while the cream and cheese turn the tomatoes into something like a tomato gratin.
Makes 12 to 15 servings
- Slab Pie Dough (and Shell) [recipe above]
- 4 large tomatoes, cored and halved
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2¼ cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2–3 tablespoons chopped chives
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Prepare the slab pie shell; refrigerate. You may also freeze it if you want to make it several days ahead. (Cover it with plastic wrap, and overwrap with foil before freezing.)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) when you’re ready to start assembling the pie. Put one rack in the bottom of your oven, and position another in the middle. Using your finger, push most of the seeds out of each tomato half, but not all of them; you want the tomatoes to be a little juicy. Cut the tomatoes into 1/8-inch-thick slices.
- Spoon the mustard into the pie shell. Using the back of the spoon, smear it over the entire bottom. Scatter half of the cheddar evenly over the shell.
- Make two or three lengthwise rows of tomato slices in the shell. If your tomatoes are quite large, you’ll only have room for two rows. Overlap them by quite a bit, so they form a thick tomato layer. Dice some of the extra slices, and fill in any gaps between or outside the rows with these smaller chunks.
- Drizzle the heavy cream here and there over the tomatoes. Salt and pepper them liberally. Mix the Parmesan with the remaining cheddar in a small bowl, and scatter the cheese over the top of the pie. Sprinkle on the chives and minced garlic.
- Bake the pie on the lower rack for 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 375°F (190°C), move the pie to the middle rack, and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes, until quite bubbly and a deep golden brown. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and cool for at least 20 to 30 minutes before slicing. If at any point in the baking you notice that the crust is puffing up a bit in a certain area, take a long skewer and poke through the filling and pastry. The bubble will immediately collapse. Refrigerate leftovers. Reheat, loosely covered with foil, in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 10 to 15 minutes.