Cobbling it Together

by Sara Mead

So, I took Ezra’s complaints about the cherry tomato cobbler recipe he tried as a personal challenge to figure out how to make it work. Since he’d kindly shared some of the cobbler leftovers with me, I felt like I had the tools to think about how to produce a more satisfactory result. And I think I did!

Here’s what I did:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For Topping: In large bowl, combine:

  • 3/4 cup + 2 T flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 t baking soda powder (oops! I wrote the wrong thing, but I used the right thing).

Using a knife and pastry cutter, cut in a slightly overfull T shortening (Crisco) and a little bit more than 1 T butter until thoroughly mixed and crumbly.

Stir into crumbly mixture 1/4 cup minced herbs (I used tarragon and chives), 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere, and a good amount of fresh ground black pepper.

Set aside while you make the filling.

For Filling:

Chop one onion and several cloves garlic. Cook in about 1 T butter until soft and transparent. Move into separate bowl to cool.

Thinly slice a handful of basil leaves.

Halve 2-3 pints cherry tomatoes. Toss with:

  • 6 T (1/4 c plus 2T) flour,
  • 1 1/2 t salt,
  • the sliced basil leaves,
  • a whole bunch of fresh ground pepper

Mix in onion and garlic mixture.

Pour into large glass baking dish.

Return to bowl of biscuit topping you previously made. Pour in 1/2 c milk and stir the minimum amount necessary to mix (do NOT overstir or knead biscuits!). Drop in spoonfulls onto top of tomato mixture in baking dish.

Bake about 50 minutes. The trickiest thing about this is it’s a little hard to tell when the biscuits are actually completely cooked, because the melted cheese makes them seem a little gooey even when they’re done.

Let cool sufficiently that you don’t burn your tongue.

Eat! It’s yummy!

I think I felt compelled to remake Ezra’s cobbler because cobblers are something I make a lot and know I do well. I don’t have the patience or skill to cook well, but I am a good baker, and cobblers–along with biscuits, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate cupcakes–are a dish I feel I can take pride in. So I wanted to see if I could make a savory cobbler work.

To cobble together my own take on cherry tomato cobbler, I started with the recipe Ezra used. While I could see the appeal in the recipe, I thought it had two flaws: As Ezra mentioned, the cherry tomato filling came out too sweet and lacked complexity. But I also thought the biscuit topping had some shortcomings–and the fact that the original recipe used a combination of oil and yogurt confirmed my suspicions. I thought the filling issue could be resolved by a) using more humdrum cherry tomatoes, rather than the sweeter (and for regular raw eating, tastier) heirlooms, and b) adding some more seasoning and savory flavors to the tomato mixture. This Martha Stewart tomato cobbler recipe pretty much gave me a plan for achieving part b. The only change I made was that I left out the sugar, because I was concerned about making it too sweet. Even without the sugar, the results were plenty juicy.

For the biscuit topping, I used my go-to biscuit recipe from the Joy of Cooking, but, pulling from Ezra’s recipe, added the herbs, pepper and gruyere after cutting in the shortening.

5 responses to “Cobbling it Together

  1. IME, the Joy biscuit recipe works a lot better with all butter :). It has a more delicate texture, which can be a pain for eating plain, but does a lot to make sure the cobbles get *eaten* in a cobbler.

    James Beard gives a cream biscuit recipe in some of his books, and when I’m so tired I can’t even think about cutting butter into flour, it’s a godsend. Then biscuits are a just stir affair.

  2. Interesting, Torrilin. I guess my experience is different–I used to make the biscuits with butter, too, but found that using shortening produced a lighter, flakier biscuit (especially when I’m being non-lazy and make the rolled kind), so now I split the difference to try to get the more shortening-y texture but also with some butter-y taste.

  3. Try lard (the real stuff, not the awful tubs that are sold in the supermarket). Once you go fatback, you’ll never go back, or something like that.

    Cheers!

  4. I’m setting out to make this cobbler right now. I’ve had a ton of tomatoes and basil from my garden, and this seems like a great way to use them. I’m going to slice up a zuke and a summer squash for good measure.
    I had to come back and check: powder or soda? The print-out of the recipe didn’t print the cross-through… I’ll post the results of my cobbler as soon as it’s finished.

  5. Okay, just had my first taste of this. It’s good, but I know what I’ll change for my next batch.
    1) Let the tomato mixture sit for 1/2 an hour and then toss it with cornstarch, not flour. This filling was too floury. This is what my partner does when he makes peach cobbler, which he has gotten down to a perfect science.
    2) Use half again as much biscuit topping. It seemed the ratio was a little off. I did add a zucchini and a crookneck squash, so maybe my proportions ended up having more filling than the recipe stated.
    3) Mix about 3 T of good, freshly grated parmesan cheese with the tomato mixture. I wished for a touch more cheesiness.
    A very worthy recipe. I’m thinking: Thanksgiving. Although tomatoes are harder to find that time of year. Good ones, at least.

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