On Monday, we talked about the lovely, swoon-inducing roasted tomato, and how to make its traditional oven-browned incarnation.
Today we’ll look at its less-popular (but no less seductive) cousin, which is rotated over high heat to give it all of the same caramelized goodness, with a distinct char and much more retained liquid, ideal for roasted salsas or sauces and soups.
The main difference between the quick-roast oven tomato and this version is the level of dehydration. The former is juicier than slow-roasting but still concentrated down, whereas this one keeps almost all of its liquid. The juice takes on the roasted flavor as you cook—biting into a pan-charred cherry tomato is like taking a smokey, sweet shot.
Also, spot-cooking over direct heat rather than evenly in the oven gives these tomatoes lovely brown Maillard spots with a sweet toastiness that you don’t get in the oven.
You’ll often see tomatoes roasted this way on a comal in Mexican cuisine, but you can achieve the same thing with a dry (or lightly greased) frying pan. The oil will detract from the char, but it will keep the skins from getting stuck.
And now, the technique:
Step 1: Heat a frying pan on high. Add whole tomatoes (and light drizzle of oil, if desired). You can also throw in a couple of whole chiles if you’re making salsa.
Step 2: As the skins begin to show char (more than opaque orange but less than burnt black; kind of a dark brown), rotate to a fresh side. For larger tomatoes, use tongs. For little guys, gently roll with a spatula.
It’s difficult to get every side. What you’re going for is a loosened, browned skin and a really soft fruit. Be gentle as you rotate; the longer they cook the more delicate they become. You might get some bursting and oozing as you go; that’s OK.
Step 3: When all tomatoes are nicely charred, remove to a glass bowl and allow to cool slightly. The skins will now be easy to remove if you’re going without them, but they’re awfully tasty to keep in the mix.
Unlike the oven-roasted version, these are best used right away. Try tossing with salt, pepper and herbs for a simple side.
You can also get this same effect on a grill—use a sheet of tin foil over the grate to keep small and softened tomatoes from slipping through.
You’ll be surprised how much these vary in texture and flavor compared to their oven-roasted relatives. Hey, different roasts for different folks. Which is your perfect match?
Originally published for PK4 Media.