For the longest time, I never really knew what to think of cherry tomatoes. Or what to do with them. Though I might have regarded them as more interesting and Barbie-sized than the usual, boring (and most often flavorless) Beefsteak tomatoes I’d normally encountered, I left them where I felt they rightly belonged– at the Sizzler salad bar, carelessly splashed by a variety of commercial salad dressings.
Several (and I do mean several) years later, when God’s cruel irony found me making salads to earn a living, I learned that cherry tomatoes had a very special purpose in life. From my guardian angel of a chef/boss named Jan Gardener, I learned that these tiny little tomatoes were meant to be cooked. Sautéed, braised, or (best of all) roasted.
Jan would throw them in a pie pan, add a couple of pats of butter, some fresh thyme sprigs from her business partner’s farm in Calistoga, sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them and then pop them in the oven. When they emerged, they were heat-burst, saucy, and very, very tomato-y. She’d serve these precious little (exploded) angels-straight-from- heaven (or, more correctly, straight from the oven) over bowls of creamy polenta and cheese or alongside roasted chickens and grilled steaks.
Simple. And utterly delightful.
It’s a busy week here at home. I haven’t the time to roast a chicken and I lack the outdoor space to fire up a grill for steaks. And, since I haven’t been feeling the pull of polenta lately, I needed to find another way to serve these tomatoes up. Since I’m only home durning lunchtime hours, I craved a sandwich. So this is what I came up with today:
B, L & Oven-Roasted T
It’s not a mind-blowing sandwich, nor should it be. If ever I felt that a sandwich had that sort of effect on my life, I’d know that I just wasn’t getting out enough. It is, however, a really, really good one. Rather than allowing the bacon to be the star, as it usually is in this flavor trio, the tomatoes take center stage. I mean this is a figurative sense, since the tomatoes are actually smeared on the bread and the bacon is at the actual center.
Oh, I think you know what I mean.
And, by the way, I am not going to give you any instruction as to how to fry bacon. For that, I’ll just have to show you a cartoon my friend Lea drew.
Makes 4 sandwiches (with leftover tomatoes, which is a good thing)
For the roasted cherry tomatoes:
2 cups cherry tomatoes
3 to 4 tablespoons of butter
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
For the rest of the sandwich:
12 slices of bacon (your choice), cooked
A few leaves of arugula (my choice) or any lettuce of your choice if you’re going to be a stickler about thing and insist upon sticking with the “l” word. In this particular case, the “l” word being “lettuce.”
Mayonnaise for spreading on:
8 slices of toasted bread (your pick, pal)
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF
2. Rinse tomatoes in a colander. Shake dry.
3. Arrange tomatoes in an even(-ish) layer in a medium sized cast iron skillet, or cake pan, or whatever you feel like roasting the little dears in, so long as it is non-reactive. dot with butter, toss on the thyme sprigs, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Throw in oven. Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring them up occasionally to make them pop and release their juices. They may be declared “done” when most (but not all) of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes have slightly shriveled.
4. Remove tomatoes from oven and let cool.
5. To assemble sandwich (I feel like a fool for even explaining this, because I am quite certain you know how to put together a damned sandwich), spread the inside of your bottom piece of toast with roasted cherry tomatoes, lay three slices of bacon on top, then cover those in a layer of lettuce or arugula or some other green. Slather your top layer of toast with mayonnaise (or aioli or whatever you feel like, really) and close.
6. Repeat until you have fed everyone within reach who eats bacon.
7. Go outside. It’s nice out.