Saturday, July 05, 2008

Ridiculously Good, Ridiculously Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

I heard a version of this recipe on the radio a couple of weeks ago, and was so intrigued I actually pulled off to the side of the road and jotted down the key details. Actually I kept on driving while I was writing, risking accidental death and dismemberment, but young and impressionable people might be reading this so let's go with the "pulled off to the side of the road" modification.

We made a small batch last weekend and it was without a doubt one of the tastiest things ever produced in our kitchen, so we quickly went back for a second round.

Cast of characters is relatively limited, fresh whole tomatoes (we've been using the smaller "on-the-vine" variety, which were declared "safe" during the recent salmonella outbreak, but they can't seem to figure out what was really going on there, so proceed as you will at your own risk, smaller grape or cherry tomatoes would also work well), extra virgin olive oil, course sea salt, fresh ground pepper and finely chopped garlic. That's it.

The very basic preparation includes the following steps:

1. Wash the tomatoes

2. Gently score the skin, so that it will peel away after a very brief bath in boiling water. A strategy that seems to work is running a serrated knife completely around the tomato, starting from the small circle left where the stem was attached, then do a little quarter turn and run around the circumference again, so you wind up with two full scores around the tomato and four "sections" - but be careful here not to go too deep, you just want to break the skin, you are not looking to "cut" the tomato. Try holding the blade in your fingertips. Here is what it looks like when this part of the process is done:

3. Put the tomatoes into boiling water for two minutes, to loosen the skin and allow its removal. From this point on you want to handle these things pretty gently, to preserve the fruit's integrity as much as you can. Take two or three in your hands at a time place them in the hot water with care.

4. After two minutes, you will see the seams where you scored the skin starting to open up, remove the pot from the heat and dump out as much water as you can without the tomatoes tumbling out all over the place. Then place the pot into the sink under cold water, to stop the cooking process and cool these little red orbs off enough to allow you to work with them easily.

5. Gently remove the skin from the tomatoes, it should peel off fairly easily at this point, and - while being careful not to "break" them - put the skinned tomatoes into a colander or some other waiting receptacle. If you abuse or disfigure a few don't worry, they'll cook up fine. When they are all ready to go they look like this:

6. Chop up some garlic. You want a fairly small chop for this, because you are going to sprinkle this key ingredient over the halved tomatoes, so garlic boulders are probably not ideal.

7. Take a baking pan with some depth, 1/2 inch or so, and line with a sheet of parchment paper. The radio station version didn't mention the paper lining, but Gwen suggested it and it worked well for us last weekend so we're sticking with the approach.

8. Cut the tomatoes in half and arrange them in the tray, round side up. You don't have to worry about how close they are together because, believe me, they are going to shrink down, not expand. Try not to break them up into undefined red clumps, you want nice halves if you can get there. I like to use a knife to flake off as much of the stem remnant as possible without killing the thing. The discarded pieces look like this:

9. Once you have the tomatoes in relatively close rows on the tray, it's time to season. Drizzle olive oil over the tray, try to hit as many as you can, grind up some pepper and sprinkle on some salt. Then add garlic to taste. You could also sprinkle on some finely chopped shallots with the garlic for even more (and broader) flavor.

You can go heavier or lighter on the seasonings, to be sure, we tend to like a rustic version, pretty heavy on the garlic, and regardless of how much you use the finished product is going to pack a lot of flavor, which is likely going to, uh, linger, if you get my drift.

Let's just say that if your plans for the evening include going out to meet the only decent prospect eHarmony has produced in six months of profile surfing you probably should steer clear of these beforehand. Better to go with a pre-game meal of dry white toast or plain pasta, which will be easier on the breath and also offer essential fortification against the effects of nervously-guzzled Chardonnay.

10. Put the tomatoes in a 200-degree oven for anywhere from five to eight hours, depending on their size/thickness and how long it takes them to roast down. Yes, you heard me right, did you read the title of the post? Five to eight hours. Trust me when I say it's worth it.

Here's what this latest batch looked like after three hours in the oven, less than halfway home and nowhere near as good and they were going to get:

And the finished product...

You could use these cut up in a pasta salad, on a burger, in scrambled eggs or an omelet, maybe as a different approach to bruschetta, anywhere you want a strong burst of tomato flavor. But after two batches we haven't moved beyond standing in the kitchen and devouring them right off the tray.


Blogger The Jillybean said...

Wow, I am definitely going to have to try these!

10:14 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Ridiculous is right. They look and sound delicious so maybe I'll get these going.. tomorrow otherwise they'll be ready at 3 AM. And us young-ins aren't THAT impressionable. If we can text and drive then we can surely write and drive. Oh wait did i say text? I meant put our hand at 10 and 2. Yeah..

7:44 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh man. Now I've got to go turn my oven on in this ridiculous heat. These look AMAZING. I was sad when you started listing ways to use them, because darn it, I just wanted to eat them plain. And then I continued reading and realized that yes, they are good plain too. :) Can't wait to try them! Thanks for the recipe!

3:12 PM  
Blogger Dre said...

I'm sooo gonna make a pizza and substitue these bad boys for red sauce. Thanks for the great recipie!

8:11 PM  
Blogger Meredreth! said...

I know I'll probably not have this problem, but do they keep for a few days in the fridge or can you freeze to utilize them in an assortment of recipes?

11:55 AM  
Blogger lu-n-am said...

Thanks for the recipe, I will try it out asap. :)

2:05 AM  
Anonymous cat494 said...

Yes,amazingly good. We drizzled olive oil on thin slices of semolina bread, toasted in the oven, spread goat cheese and then topped with the tomatoes. -- A dinner that still makes me smile. One suggestion: I used a razor knife to make the cuts to the tomato and it seemed to go faster.

3:03 PM  

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