Soft foods like mashed potatoes, soup, Jell-O, and ice cream are normally on the menu the day someone gets her wisdom teeth pulled, but I have a clear memory of nibbling on hamburgers and tomato pie.
It was the summer after my junior year in college, and my cousin Sandy had invited my family over for a cookout the evening of my tooth extraction. Sandy is the eldest of four cousins on my dad’s side of the family; they’re all a little older than me, and I always looked up to them. There was no way I was going to let some sore gums keep me home.
Chewing the hamburger with my front teeth was somewhat challenging, but Sandy’s special side dish went down easily. It was my first introduction to tomato pie, and I left with recipe in hand.
Over the years, I made this savory dish many times for family and friends, always to glowing reviews. Perhaps I was focusing too much on new recipe creation, because for the last few summers, this seasonal favorite went unmade. And then towards the end of last summer, I received an email from my old friend Nancy.
Nancy married just over 20 years ago, and at the time, we both volunteered for the Junior League. A fellow member had the clever idea of showering Nancy with tried-and-true recipes from the many volunteers. I chose one of my favorites, and it was tucked into a special box with all the others.
In her email, Nancy mentioned that she had recently sat down with this treasured keepsake to leisurely thumb through the recipes, and her eyes lit to my tomato pie recipe. She made the recipe (dating to 1996!) days later and proclaimed it a hit.
Nancy’s thoughtful email was all I needed to put Sandy’s tomato pie back into the rotation—yet my own recipe card was nowhere to be found. I was pretty sure I could recreate the dish but wanted to be true to the original. I knew just who to ask.
Nancy kindly photographed and emailed the front and back of the card I had written 21 years ago. The note I included said “Great side dish with anything from hamburgers to steak, fish or chicken. One of my favorites and can be prepared in advance. Enjoy!!” I hope you do, too!
- 1-1/2 cups Pepperidge Farm dry herb seasoned dressing*
- 5 small or 4 medium tomatoes, sliced**
- 1 small (about 4 ounces) sweet onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 ounces (1 lightly rounded cup) freshly grated American cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I recommend 1/4 teaspoon less if using table salt)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Optional: 3 strips bacon, cut in half; fresh basil for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch pie plate and cover the bottom with dressing. (I use about 1 cup for the bottom layer; reserve the rest for later.)
- Fill the plate with alternating layers of tomato, onion, and cheese.*** In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar, salt and pepper; pour the egg mixture evenly over layers in the pie plate. (I use a fork to gently help it sink in.) Sprinkle with the balance of the dressing. Arrange the optional uncooked bacon slices on top.
- Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the top is lightly golden and the bacon, if using, is crisp. For easier cutting, let the pie sit for 10 or so minutes before serving. Leftovers taste great and can be enjoyed at room temperature or warmed in a low oven.
- *Note that this is a dried stuffing mix, not soft bread cubes. For a gluten-free option, I’ve tested Three Bakers herb seasoned whole grain cubed stuffing with excellent results. I lightly crushed the mix (which, for locals, I found at Lemon Street Market), as the pieces were somewhat larger than the Pepperidge Farm option.
- **The original recipe called for peeling the tomatoes. You may do this (simply submerge in boiling water for 30 seconds, and the peels will slip right off), but I have found the end result to be nearly as good without the added step. Also, I don’t seed the tomatoes but do gently squeeze out a bit of the liquid if they seem especially watery.
- ***Two full layers will typically fill my pie plate. If you slice everything very thinly, you may be able to fit three. Evenly dispersing all of the ingredients in each layer is more important than whether you have 2 or 3 layers. Feel free to chop a tomato slice or two to fill any big gaps. If you have a little onion or a few tomato slices left over, don’t worry. Simply save them for salad. 😊