Musical pairing – Home by Michael Bublé
I don’t really remember actually eating tomatoes while living in the little house on Ankeny Street, I’m sure I did because we grew them in our garden and I know that my grandmother grew them in her garden. In fact, I believe that everyone who had a garden, grew tomatoes. In my family, we ate tomatoes on a hamburger or chopped up and made into salsas, soups or some type of pasta sauce. Tomato ‘jam’ or ‘chutney’ didn’t exist in my corner of the world – those were kinda fancy for a little town like Walla Walla . . .
Back then the population was somewhere around 25,000 and stayed that size for many years; it was a farming community – cattle, wheat, alfalfa. Small family farms raised chickens and pigs or grew crops like strawberries, green beans or corn (for human consumption) that folks could go and pick themselves to can or freeze for the winter. Two food-processing plants hired crews in the summer to harvest vegetables: peas, carrots, onions, corn and asparagus. I remember my mother working there a few summers when I was little.
I had cousins, aunts and uncles who either worked in the fields or in the plant at one time or another. In fact, my sister and I worked a few summers on the assembly lines . . . I can still hear our supervisor, Mary, face dark and leathery from too much sun, yelling above the din of the machinery . . . ‘Pick out your white butts’ . . . she was referring to the white stalks on asparagus which are tough and woody and not the prime vegetables Birdseye wanted . . .
Summers in Walla Walla meant riding bicycles, swimming at the local pool, movies at the downtown theater, picnics at the park and family reunions. Fried chicken, potato and macaroni salad, hot dogs and hamburgers, coleslaw, watermelon; jello salad, plates of pickles and sliced tomatoes dressed the tables that could barely hold it all . . . cousins caught up with cousins, the ‘menfolk’ played horseshoes while the ‘womenfolk’ drank coke or pepsi and gossiped about the menfolk and their neighbors. And at some point during the day, my dad and uncle Jim would pick teams and we’d be involved in a full-blown softball game: boys, girls, moms, dads, grandparents – if you were old enough to hold a bat, you’d be running around those bases giving it everything you had to slide across home plate . . .
The last time I was in Walla Walla was ten years ago when we buried my father; it was a different reunion then – good to see my family but I wished that my dad was still alive and he and my uncle Jim could pick teams again, still chasing each other around the baseball diamond. I find it ironic that as a child, all I wanted to do was ‘get outta Dodge and see the world’ . . . as a grownup, all I want to do is head back home . . .
And if by chance I was lucky enough to attend a family reunion, I’d take this beautiful Tomato Cobbler; it celebrates the best of what summer has to offer: warm from the oven, sweet cherry tomatoes and lovely braised onions . . . all topped with a cheesy biscuit . . .
Can I just get an ‘Amen’ for summer?
Ever so slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living
FOR THE FILLING:
- 1-1/4 cups 8hr Butter Braised Onions, cooled
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3 pounds cherry tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
- course salt and freshly ground pepper
FOR THE BISCUIT TOPPING:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- course salt
- 1 stick frozen unsalted butter, grated on large holes of box grater
- 1 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
- 1-1/2 cups heavy cream, plus more for brushing
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Place onions, garlic, tomatoes, flour and pepper flakes with a good pinch of salt and 3-4 twists of pepper in large bowl; toss and place in the bottom of a slightly oiled 2-quart baking dish. (Note: Make sure the dish is 2-inches deep); place on a foil-lined sheet pan; set aside.
- For the biscuit topping: Add flour, baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt into bowl; whisk or toss with your hands. Add grated butter and lightly toss, being careful not to handle too much – you want the butter to stay as cold as possible. Add cheese and gently toss. Add cream, stirring with a fork until dough forms. Dough should be somewhat sticky.
- Spoon 7 clumps of biscuit dough (about ½ cup each) over the top of tomato mixture creating a circle, leaving center open. Leave about ½-inch outer edge open as well – this allows the biscuit to spread a bit. Brush dough with cream, top with remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese. Bake until tomatoes are bubbling in the center and biscuits are golden brown, about 1 hour, 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for 20 minutes.