Scalloped Tomatoes

No matter how many times I write or say the words “scalloped tomatoes” I want to say “scalloped potatoes” because despite seeing this recipe on TV [and rare of rare things, followed it in real life] I still don’t think it’s real.  Pages and pages of Epicurious searches didn’t turn up a recipe, and the first search on Google indeed brings up the Barefoot Contessa recipe.  Loads of images on Google Image Search only corroborate the theory that Ina Garten is the only major contributor to the life of this dish.

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Or maybe you’ve heard of it?  Doesn’t it seem like for a dish to be “scalloped” the pieces need to be roughly scallop or scallop shell-shaped?  That’s always how I thought of scalloped potatoes/potatoes au gratin.

The instructions are quite simple, involving little more than pan-frying the main ingredients and then roasting them in a the oven with sprinkled cheese on top.  It has all of the technical components  — if by other names…i.e., olive oil in place of cream, tomatoes in place of potatoes, etc. — of scalloped potatoes, but it’s something else entirely.  Actually, it reminded me of stuffing.  A really mushy stuffing.

Ina’s really big on toasting bread whenever it’s a component because she claims it locks in crispness and prevents the bread from absorbing the liquid.  This is demonstrably false.  Although I don’t disagree with the toasting of the bread, I just wish she explained it properly.  Much like how searing a steak adds unique flavors and texture (vs. an unseared steak), so does toasting bread.  We need to squash this misconception that heating something to a crispy exterior somehow creates an impermeable barrier.  It doesn’t make sense even under bare scrutiny; clearly a spongy, hole-filled piece of bread isn’t blocking water and oil simply by virtue of having a harder than normal exterior!

So in short, I followed her recipe exactly, and yet mine turned out rather different from hers.  I suppose that’s what having a legion of assistants and two dishwashers will do for you.


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