By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
A down-home dish that utilized Alabama native species of wild game and vegetables was crowned champion recently at the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) Wild Game Cook-Off Finals at AWF’s Lanark home.
The LeMay Farms team put together the winning Chandler Mountain Tomato Pie with Blackened Quail, made with home-grown tomatoes and bobwhite quail that prevailed in a tight competition with an array of delicious wild game and fish preparations.
The LeMay Farms team of Steve LeMay, Lake LeMay, John Davis, Charlie Carper, Joel Brown, Curtis Eatman and Tim Saunders also won the Best Presentation Award.
Joel Brown said the tomato pie recipe came from his mom while growing up near Dothan, although the tomatoes came from a different region in Alabama.
“The Chandler Mountain tomatoes are just good tomatoes,” Brown said. “They’re grown up near Steele. Steve LeMay went up and got the tomatoes. They grow acres and acres of tomatoes up there. If you ride on top of the mountain (in northeast Alabama), there are tomatoes as far as you can see. That rocky soil just makes good tomatoes.
“I grew up in Dothan eating Slocomb tomatoes, but that’s too far to go. So, Chandler Mountain tomatoes it is.”
Chandler Mountain Tomato Pie with Blackened Quail
1 pie crust
1 large Vidalia onion
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 Chandler Mountain tomatoes, depending on size
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper.
8-10 fresh basil leaves
½ pound mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 cleaned bobwhite quail
1 teaspoon blackening seasoning
2 tablespoon butter
“You get a refrigerated, ready-made pie crust, or you can certainly make your own, and bake it until it’s light brown,” Brown said.
Slice the Vidalia onion and sauté in butter until translucent. Dice the tomatoes and allow to drain.
“I put the diced tomatoes in a single layer on a paper towel to soak up the juice so the pie is not soupy,” Brown said. “I let the Vidalias cool a little and then add a layer in the pie crust. I mix the raw tomatoes in with the Vidalias and add a little salt and pepper. Then I’m going to add fresh chopped basil in that bottom layer. We grow basil, so we just pick the leaves, roll them up and chop them fine.
“The top layer is going to be grated mozzarella, mayonnaise and hot sauce. I like to grate a 1-pound block of mozzarella. I think it tastes better fresh grated. I mix in mayonnaise to get it thicker, kind of like you’re mixing up pimento and cheese. I give that a good dose of black pepper and several dashes of hot sauce, whatever your favorite hot sauce is, whether it’s Crystal or Tabasco. Then I spread it out on top of the pie. I bake it at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the cheese on top is golden brown.”
The LeMay Farms team got the dressed quail from Otter Creek Farms near Ohatchee. Brown said he fillets the breasts and separates the leg quarters intact. He sprinkles the quail with the blackening season and lets them sit for about an hour before he fires up his flat-top griddle.
Blacken the quail in melted butter on the griddle. The leg quarters will take a little longer on the griddle to reach the desired doneness. When done, dice the breasts into half-inch chunks and spread on top of the pie. Serve the leg quarters on the side.
“Mom used to make tomato pies when I was growing up, and that’s similar to her recipe,” Brown said. “Tomatoes were big where I grew up in Dothan. My whole family loves them. I’ve got about 20 tomato plants in my yard. I’m a tomato fan.”