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(Southern) Tomato Pie

August 23, 2010

If you are from the south, tomato pie is just tomato pie, not Southern Tomato Pie. My mother makes a different tomato pie, because our family is from Ohio, and so we need the qualifier when it comes to the pie’s southern manifestation.

Southern Tomato Pie is impressive for its array of saturated fat, present in mayonnaise, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and bacon, not to mention the butter and shortening in the crust. It’s a savory pie, yes, but almost like a gloppy, soggy eggless quiche. I’ve tried and tried to remedy this: blind-baking the crust and sealing it with egg white; patting the raw tomato slices on paper towels or dredging them in flour; reducing the amount of sour cream and mayonnaise. And to no avail.

But I’ve realized that Southern Tomato Pie is, by its very nature, a gloppy mess, and were it not, it would be another pie entirely. (E.g. my mother’s pie, which is really just a scrumptious tomato tart with fontina and parmesan cheeses and fresh basil. It is much easier on the arteries.)  And I like this gloppy tomato pie, which springs from the Edisto Island vacations of my childhood; we’d bring down a crate of big, fat red tomatoes down from Ohio to our South Carolina friends, and they’d flip out over them, and the lovely Carol Vaughn would make this pie with a storebought crust, for that is how we made all pies back then. Carol’s son Jason once made a version with a layer of crabmeat, an extravagance only suitable for those with bowlsful of laboriously picked blue crab flesh. So you can see that the apex of Southern Tomato Pie, featuring a union of Ohio tomatoes and blue crab of the Carolina Low Country, can only logically exist in the most unique intersection of circumstances. It is the Brigadoon of the pie world.

This is how to make it, without crab.

Carol Vaughn’s Tomato Pie

Makes about eight servings

This recipe is transcribed from a fax of my mother’s loping, often illegible cursive, in which she ascribes it to Carol Vaughn, but I suspect she included some of her own alterations, as I am about to do. So, really, this is at least a third-generation echo of whatever Carol Vaughn’s tomato pie recipe was. Like I know hers had a cup each of sour cream and mayonnaise, and the recipe below does not. Paula Deen’s tomato pie recipe does not call for bacon, which, considering Paula Deen’s predilection for the gratuitous inclusion of fatty foods, is incredible. I myself like the bacon. I make tomato pie maybe once every 1.5 years, and so topping it with bacon is entirely in line.  

  • 1 9-inch prebaked pie crust
  • 2-3 large tomatoes, preferably red and sweet, the kind you’d eat raw slices of
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2-3 green onions, sliced
  • ¾ cup grated cheddar cheese (the orange kind, not the white kind)
  • 2-3 slices of bacon, cooked crisp, drained on paper towels, and crumbled
  • Salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the tomatoes in half through what, if the were globes, would be their equators. With your fingers, scoop out and discard as much seedy goop as possible. Then cut the un-gooped tomatoes into slices about ½ inch thick. Season the tomato slices with salt and pepper and set aside.

Whisk the mayonnaise and sour cream together in a medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper, and maybe a few drops of hot pepper sauce.

Put a layer of tomatoes in the pie dish and top with half of the mayonnaise mixture, then with half of the scallions and half of the cheese. Repeat with remaining ingredients, so that on the top layer you have mayonnaise dotted with green onions and cheddar cheese. Sprinkle the bacon over it all. Bake the pie until you see bubbling juices around the sides, about an hour. Cool very well before serving, lest you cut into a pieful of formless slop.

Serve warm or at room temperature or, if it’s quite hot, chilled.

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