Virginia

Burnt Tomatoes

Courtesy of Mason Hereford (Col ’08)

Side dish, serves 10
Burnt Tomatoes

Mason Hereford is the owner of Turkey and the Wolf—a sandwich shop in New Orleans named America’s Best New Restaurant by Bon Appétit in 2017. You may remember his Collard Green Melt recipe from Virginia Magazine’s Winter 2017 interview (“UVA Born and Bread”). The Burnt Tomatoes recipe, below, was handed down from Hereford’s grandmother, Ann Hereford, who served it often at Carr’s Hill, where she lived with Mason’s grandfather, Frank Hereford (Col ’43, Grad ’47), UVA president from 1974 to 1985.

Ingredients

3 tbsp.
Unsalted butter, softened
6 lbs.
firm red tomatoes (hot house variety are fine)
1 cup
canola oil
3 cups
all-purpose flour
1 tbsp.
kosher salt
1 tbsp.
pepper (preferably freshly ground)
1 tbsp.
sugar

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with softened butter.
  2. Slice the ends off the tomatoes. Slice each tomato into 3 slices. They should be about ½-inch thick.
  3. Pour about ½ inch of canola oil into a cast iron skillet. This may be all your oil, depending on the size of your skillet. Heat the oil over medium high heat.
  4. While the oil is heating, add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper to the 3 cups of flour. Dredge each tomato slice in the flour and place in the heated oil so that each slice is not overlapping with another slice.
  5. Cook each slice so that it is brown on each side, about 3 minutes. If they are taking too long to brown, turn up your heat. When brown, remove the slices, draining off as much excess oil as possible back into the cast iron. Place each browned tomato slice into the buttered baking dish. Repeat this process in batches until a single layer of tomato slices covers the bottom of the dish.
  6. When the bottom of the baking dish is filled with fried tomato slices, dot each tomato with a tiny pat of butter and sprinkle with sugar (about a teaspoon will cover the layer of tomatoes), and a little salt and pepper. Continue frying the tomato slices, placing the next layer of tomatoes on top of the first layer. When the second layer is completed, again dot with butter and sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper.
  7. Add a third layer, repeating the process. Add more oil to the skillet as needed, each time waiting for the oil to heat before putting tomatoes in the skillet.
  8. When the baking pan has three layers, top the third layer of tomatoes with salt, pepper and sugar. Place the pan, uncovered, in the oven and cook for 1 to 2 hours. The length of cooking time can depend on one’s oven and the way the tomatoes fried. If they were loose and falling apart, a longer cooking time is suggested, to better “fuse” them together. The end result should be a rich, dark brown/red pan of soft, caramelized tomatoes.