Saturday, October 29, 2016

How to smoke a tomato

I realize that this is a bit of an odd title for a blog post, but I hope that you will enjoy the associated recipe. This recipe is for a great marinara pasta sauce that has been adapted from my Gumbo Shop cookbook. This cookbook features great New Orleans-style recipes, including ones for turkey sausage gumbo and creole. Of course, we include our own adaptations to make these recipes our own.
This year, we've been enjoying a prolonged frost-free season here in the Intermountain West. This means that we continue to have tomatoes ripening on the vine. Of course, this, in turn, means that we need to find things to do with them. The other night, I went out and picked a nice bunch of them. I didn't have enough to put up in jars, but still needed to do something with them. I decided that this marinara sauce would be a great choice.
This sauce features smoked tomatoes. We always enjoy an opportunity to use our smoker. The flavor that the smoking process adds to this sauce really gives it a nice touch. Start by peeling and coarsely chopping the tomatoes. 

Here is the recipe. I am basing the amounts on what I am used today. You can size it up or down to suit your own needs. The main thing is that you divide whatever amount of tomatoes you use and smoke half of them. You will then adjust the amount of the other ingredients. 

Here is a picture of the tomatoes I used - all peeled, chopped, and ready to go!
Ingredients: 12 cups of coarsely chopped tomatoes, divided (You can use either fresh or canned)
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
8 ounce package of sliced mushrooms
2-3 tbsp minced garlic
4 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
Meat as desired (sausage, chicken, and/or shrimp)
Prepared pasta such as penne, rotini, or bowtie

Step 1: Smoke the tomatoes. To smoke the tomatoes, spread them out on a baking sheet and place in a smoker or covered grill for 20 minutes. We used our smoker and set the temperature at 225. The goal isn't to cook the tomatoes but to impart the smoky flavor. Here they are in the smoker and what they look like after the smoking process.

Step 2: Prepare the sauce. Saute the onions in the olive oil until they are soft. Add the mushrooms, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, and basil and cook for about 1 minute or until these ingredients have blended well together. Stir in the smoked and non-smoked tomatoes. Simmer to reduce the liquid a bit. about 20-30 minutes. This isn't intended to be a really heavy thick sauce, but I like having some of the liquid reduced. I also stirred in about 2 tsp of cornstarch that I had mixed in about 1/4 cup of reserved liquid from the non-smoked tomatoes to thicken the sauce just a little. This step isn't necessary, but is an option depending on your preference. 
Here's a look at the volume of the sauce that we prepared. Yum! The capacity of this dutch oven is about 4 quarts to give you a reference.
Step 3: Prepare the meat and add to the sauceFor the meat, you can use shrimp, chicken, or sausage or, perhaps, a combination. If using chicken or uncooked sausage, brown it separately before adding it to the sauce. We used our favorite, Chef Aidell's Cajun andouille sausage, which is pre-cooked; however, we also opted to slice the links into coins and brown them under the broiler in the oven. If using shrimp, you can cook them separately or cook them in the sauce itself. 
Because we made such a large batch of sauce, we will be freezing some to use later. I wasn't sure how the shrimp and sauce would hold up through the freezing and reheating process. As such, we stirred the sausage into the sauce and then cooked a few shrimp to add to each individual serving.

Step 4: Serve over pasta and enjoy