Banjo player sculpture made by Cindy, who is a blacksmith. The banjo head is a pie pan!
I think I found heaven last month. It's in a Virginia holler outside of Blacksburg, at the home of Greg and Cindy Galbreath of Buckeye Banjos during their annual Turkey Scratch party. We arrived Friday night, and after driving up the long twisty driveway along a dirt road, we suddenly came upon a clearing, with multiple buildings lit with tiny glowing lights, folks milling about, and the sound of fiddle tunes in the air. As we approached these welcome sights and sounds, the buildings came into focus. There was a beautiful porch-wrapped home, made by Greg and Cindy; a banjo workshop with a loft, a pig-roasting shack, a chicken coop, and a little pavilion with an outdoor kitchen, where a jam was already in progress. After finding friends and the kegerator, we held a little square dance in the pavilion, and capped off the night with a 1am hot dog roast in the outdoor kitchen. Then it was off to bed in the banjo workshop, anxious to see what this little haven looked like in the daylight.
Sarah & Aviva singing on the porch
It was even dreamier than I imagined, as we were graced with the most perfect fall day. Friends and I went for a walk along the trails on the property, played around-the-world micro-pong (portable ping-pong game) on a sheet of plywood, and held down a ladies' porch jam of singing and tunes for most of the afternoon. Just before dinner time, I gathered a few friends, and we got into the kitchen to make our contribution to the potluck-- Homesick Texan's tomato, bacon & jalapeno pie. I'd brought all the necessary ingredients, but we swapped out my grocery store tomatoes and bacon for heirloom and homemade varieties that Sebastiaan shared from his farm. While I prepared the crust, he and Ariel and Sarah worked on the filling, and we sang and told stories in the kitchen that was abuzz with other cooks, musicians, and cute babies. We assembled the pie in one of the many hanging skillets from Greg and Cindy's collection, then put it in the oven while we sampled the other dinner dishes and snuck oven peeks.
I'm not sure this pie ever really made it out of the kitchen entirely. The spicy-BLT like dish was so enticing, that we had to keep it on the down-low, sneaking our friends slices so they could all have a taste. Brent liked it so much, he said he wanted it to be his birthday cake for next year. It's good thing we laid down a strong pie base, for all the pickle back shots and square dancing and two-stepping that we'd get into later that night. Homesick Texan nails it yet again.
Tomato, Bacon & Jalapeño Pie
Adapted only slightly from Homesick Texan
For the filling:
1 1/2 lbs. heirloom tomatoes (a meaty variety is best), sliced
1 tsp. sea salt
3 c. (12 oz.) pepper jack cheese, shredded
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and sliced in rounds or diced
8 oz. bacon, cooked and diced
For the crust:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
8 Tblsp. unsalted butter, chilled
3/4 c. buttermilk
1. Place sliced tomatoes in a colander and place the colander in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and toss, then let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes so the juices drain.
2. Meanwhile, make the crust. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and pepper. using a pastry cutter or fork and knife, cut the chilled butter into the flour mixture until it is the consistency of cornmeal and peas. Stir in the buttermilk and mix well. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into an 11-inch circle.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet (you can use a normal pie pan if you don't have a skillet). Transfer the dough to the skillet and fit the crust, making sure it reaches the top of the pan all the way around.
4. Fill the pie by sprinkling and spreading half of the cheese along the crust. Layer in the tomato slices, garlic, jalapeño, and bacon, topping with the remaining cheese.
5. Place the skillet on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes until the crust and cheese are golden brown and filling is bubbling.
Ariel & Sebastiaan walking the trails
It is funny to think about this heavenly time and place when we here in DC and pretty much everywhere else along the East coast is getting slammed by Hurricane Sandy. I will say though, that while this pie was the perfect thing for an old-time party on the perfect fall day, it would also be just as good, maybe even better, as a storm party comfort food. Stay safe and dry and stocked in pie out there, folks.