When I wrote earlier about dishes that call for butter, lots of butter, this recipe sprung to mind. From the great Southern cook Edna Lewis, comes this buttery, warming, tomato dream, so comforting that even if you didn't have a southern granny cooking for you as a child you'll swear this dish brings back memories of her bent over the oven singing to her lil' grandbaby. In some circles I believe this is referred to as scalloped tomatoes, and my mother who is southern says she used to make it with cracker crumbs on top. I used a loaf of sourdough bread that had roasted garlic cloves backed inside and the added garlic was divine, on the side I served a green salad with organic blue cheese dressing. I hope you enjoy this little bit of southern comfort as much as I did.
Also, If you have the temptation to add Parmesan or oregano to this in order to make it Italian, resist! This is butter and tomatoes in their most simplest southern form, delicious.
3 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes in juice
3/4 stick unsalted butter, divided
2 medium onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar, or to taste
8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices good-quality white sandwich bread such as a pullman loaf
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Butter a 3-quart baking dish (about 13 by 9 by 2 inches).
Drain tomatoes, reserving 1 cup juice, then chop.
Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then cook onions with 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, allspice, and cloves and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Stir in tomatoes with reserved juice, thyme, brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and briskly simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt remaining 1/2 stick butter and brush onto both sides of bread. Halve each slice.
Transfer tomato mixture to baking dish and top with bread, overlapping slightly. Bake until bubbling and bread is crisp and golden-brown, about 20 minutes.