Growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta as the youngest of five kids, I was immersed in my family’s ancestral food traditions, rich with recipes passed down orally through six generations. One of the most treasured is our peach cobbler, a treat that my mom prepared on summer weekends with me nearby helping mix the dough and gobbling up the velvety fruit skins as she peeled them away.
Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter
The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.
My family’s method calls for precooking chunks of fruit with sugar and spices until they just soften, thickening the filling with cornstarch, transferring it to a baking dish, and laying pie pastry on top before sliding the assembly into the oven. I adore the way the flaky pie crust complements the soft, plump fruit, its buttery crumb mellowing out the sweetness and tang. The recipe is as steeped in history as it gets, and I wanted to apply our knowledge to a much more recent invention: savory tomato cobbler, a luscious main- or side-dish twist on the sweet dessert.
Seasonings for Tomato Cobbler
I started with the seasonings: Minced garlic and a spoonful of tomato paste sizzled in olive oil provided depth; fresh thyme added an herbal touch that steered clear of marinara territory; and salt, pepper, and sugar focused the flavors. After coating 2 pounds of chopped tomatoes in this garlicky-tomatoey base, I stirred in a slurry of 1 tablespoon of water and 21/2 teaspoons of cornstarch, enough to give the filling body without making it jam-like.
The Best Vessel for Baking
For convenience (and a homey look), I left the filling in the skillet instead of moving it to a baking dish to receive the pie dough topping. After some tinkering, I landed on an unusual treatment for the dough to account for the fact that tomatoes tend to bake up more liquid-y than peaches: I rolled a small batch of our all-butter pie dough into a round and cut it into six tidy wedges that I brushed with an egg wash and arranged on the filling with gaps between each wedge and around the edge of the skillet. As the cobbler bubbled in the oven, the crust turned golden and delicately crisp. The spaces around the wedges promoted evaporation and concentration of the abundant juice, which gave the filling a scoopable texture.
I tucked into a warm, inviting portion graced with a dollop of tangy sour cream. The seventh generation of the Turner family is in for a treat.