In celebration of Southern classics: Tomato cobbler
May 22, 2015
I may have blogged this before. If so, you’re getting it again, because that was a first-time effort, and this time, friends and neighbors, I have gotten this baby RIGHT. As in Sweet Baby Jesus good. And right at the start of tomato season, yet.
If you are a Southerner, and if you were listing the canonical Southern dishes with which you grew up, cornbread would certainly be one of them. Sliced ripe tomatoes would be one. As would cobblers, of all varieties.
What if you put them all together? What if you had a tomato cobbler, with a cornbread dough?
You would take a bite, your eyes would roll back in your head, and you would proceed to eat like there was no tomorrow, that’s what.
Here is how you get exactly that.
- Two medium-to-large ripe tomatoes, diced, with all their juice
- 6 or 8 cloves garlic confit*, crushed or diced finely
- 3 or 4 green onions, white part and 3 or so inches of green, chopped
- 1/3 cup minced fresh herbs from your garden (I used a mixture of a good deal of chives, basil and tarragon, somewhat less thyme and oregano)
- a dash or two of good olive oil
- a dash or two of good balsamic vinegar
*I do not like the flavor of fresh garlic, even though this is going to get baked. Therefore, I make garlic confit in huge quantities (3 pounds of cloves at a time) and use it in all garlic applications. It’s not as strong as fresh, so you have to use more. If you’re using fresh, cut back to 3-4 cloves.
Stir all that up in a non-reactive bowl and let it sit on your countertop for a couple of hours for all the flavors to get happy together. Go by occasionally and smell it. It smells like spring. It smells wonderful.
About 30-45 minutes before you’re ready to eat, mix up a thin cornbread batter, thusly:
- 1 cup cornbread mix (I use self-rising), OR
- 1/2 cup corn meal, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 tsp each baking soda, baking powder, salt
- 2 tbsp bacon grease (or oil, if you’ve grown too far away from your Southern roots and don’t keep a crock of bacon grease at the ready, and shame on you if you don’t)
- 1/2 tsp salt (yes, even if you already put some in with the meal and flour)
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
Whisk all this up and pour it in either a hot 6-inch skillet, with a healthy scoop of additional bacon grease or oil swirled around the bottom of it and up the size, or a round casserole dish. Spoon the tomato mixture carefully into it, spacing it all over the surface. It will sink and make little islands in the batter. DO NOT STIR IT UP!
Sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano cheese, and bake it at 375 to 400 until the crust is browned (maybe 25 minutes). Let it cool for about 10 minutes, and scoop it out.
Tonight, I’m having mine with meat loaf, because I was jonesing for meat loaf (or, more to the point, a meat loaf sandwich tomorrow), and roasted new potatoes, cooked in with the meat loaf, which makes them marvelously savory and creamy. And that doggoned broccoli I needed to either cook or throw out; I tossed it with some olive oil, sprinkled it with sea salt, and roasted it, then added lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. But later on down in the summer, it’s pretty much to die for with fried okra, creamed corn and a cucumber salad. The next day, leftover cobbler and cucumber salad, presuming there are any of either, make a marvelous lunch.
It occurs to me you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em could fry up 6 or 8 slices of diced-up bacon and add to the cornbread batter, and have a respectable entree, too.
If you’re cooking for a crowd, double the recipe and put it in a big skillet or a big baking dish. People will look at it oddly, trying to figure out what it is, take a little serving, and then be back in a hurry after they get their eyes rolled back down to forward in their heads.
And just smile graciously when people rave about how good it is. Because they’re right.