Savor summer’s finest heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs by layering them in a cheddar-and-thyme piecrust. Lemon thyme and lemon basil infuse the dish with citrusy, fragrant notes, but regular thyme and basil also get the job done.
Look for firm and ripe tomatoes with originality in various colors and shapes. Resist the squishy, bursting ones to make sure your crust stays crisp.
For the Cheddar-Thyme Pie Dough
- 2 cups (5 ounces) packed shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 1/2 cups, plus 1 tablespoon, all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons vodka
- ½ cup ice water
- Ice, for chilling
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus a heavy pinch for the egg wash
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup shortening, chilled and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon thyme leaves
- 1 large egg
For the Tomato Filling
- 9 pounds heirloom tomatoes, destemmed and cut into ¾-inch-thick rounds (15 to 20 various-size tomatoes)
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 cup paper-thin garlic slices, cut on a mandoline or with a knife (1 head garlic)
- 5 lemon thyme sprigs
- 1/2 cup good extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1/4 cup lemon basil leaves, torn slightly
- Flaky sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Make the cheddar-thyme pie dough: Preheat the oven to 375°.
- In a small bowl, toss the cheddar cheese with 1 tablespoon of the flour and freeze for 10 minutes.
- In a 1-cup liquid measuring cup, combine the vinegar, vodka and water. Fill to the top with ice and chill until ready to use.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining flour, sugar, salt and pepper. Add the shortening and use a pastry cutter to work the shortening into the flour. Add the butter cubes, cheese and thyme, and cut into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with a few pea-size butter pieces.
- Pour 1/4 cup of the ice-cold vinegar mixture over the flour and stir with a fork. Add another ¼ cup and, with your fingertips, briefly mix into a shaggy dough. Add enough water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together without crumbling. Gather the dough and form it into a loose ball. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap, using the plastic as an aid to tuck and seal the dough into a smooth 5-by-7-inch rectangle. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.
- Meanwhile, make the tomato filling: Line two 11-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the sliced tomatoes in a single layer on each sheet tray and season them with salt. Bake for 20 minutes at 375°. Reduce the oven to 300° and continue to bake until the tomatoes begin to wrinkle and dry on top, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain the tomatoes of any excess water. Set aside and cool to room temperature. The tomatoes can be covered and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead.
- Prebake the pie shell: Roll the chilled pie dough to a 16-by-23-inch rectangle. Fold the dough in half and then in quarters. Transfer and unfold the dough on the baking sheet. If the dough gets tough to handle and the butter begins to soften, refrigerate it again. Fold the edges of the dough to make a thick-rimmed crust along the inside of the pan and chill in the freezer until firm, about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 425°. In a small bowl whisk the egg with a heavy pinch of salt. Remove the chilled dough and prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Brush the entire dough with the egg wash and line the bottom inside edges with large butter knives to hold up the sides during baking. Transfer to the oven, lower the heat to 400° and bake, rotating the pan halfway through cooking, until the edges are light golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 375° and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
- Transfer the tomatoes to the prebaked pie shell, flipping them so that the bottom, wet sides of the tomatoes are facing up in the pie shell; layer the garlic slivers and lemon thyme sprigs in between the tomato slices. Drizzle olive oil evenly over the tomatoes and garlic, and transfer to the oven. Reduce the temperature to 350° and bake until the tomatoes begin to brown along their edges and the crust turns deep golden brown, about 40 minutes. If the edges brown fast, cover them with aluminum foil. Transfer the pie to a baking rack and cool to room temperature before slicing. Finish by topping the pie with lemon basil, flaky sea salt, black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Then serve.