Never trust anything that sounds like it was named by or after a village idiot.
My Sunday started easy enough. I was up before dawn, sipping coffee, proud of myself for just starting to catch up on blogging duties. My day was all planned out before me: as soon as the sun reared above the roof, I would trot out my basket of plump and impeccable plum tomatoes. I would carefully select the finest, blemish-free specimens to arrange before the window to photograph. I would take a few dozen shots, upload them on the PC and, again, carefully select a few as finalists for this blog post. Then I would, again, trot the whole lot into the kitchen for a quick few steps before simmering them down into a sauce to be finished generously with Cheddar cheese melting into a swirl of deep orange purée, the foundation of the messy, New England nursery comfort classic, Rinktum Tiddy.
No one exactly knows who invented Rinktum Tiddy; it's one of those folkloric, traditional recipes passed down by Americans whose ancestry hailed from England, very similar to Welsh Rarebit. It seemed an ideal and easy little meal that could be slightly jazzed up for a more stylish presentation than slopped over some toast points. Why not fill ramekins with the soupy-sauce, then top them with croutons and a shower of extra cheese before sliding them under the broiler, à la French onion soup?
All was well until I reviewed my photos. I wasn't happy with any of them. Not one. So I grabbed back the tomato models from the kitchen, set them aside, and made the sauce with the remainder. I figured that while it was bubbling on the stove, I would shoot another batch of photos.
All was returned to well...until I returned to the kitchen. The tomatoes were ready to be puréed, and I had streamlined the recipe further than its already rudimentary ingredients by omitting the egg to avoid the tedious, but essential, precision of not curdling it. Nothing could go wrong, except, of course, the curdling of the Cheddar. Yes, folks, Cheddar is one of those dairy delights that's great when cold and carved off the slab, but fiendishly fickle at a temperature above tepid. I set aside the pot of cheese-streaked sauce and set about to do it again (with canned tomatoes), this time hovering over it, testing the sauce for just enough heat to melt the cheese without it seizing up. And it curdled again. Now who's the village idiot?
Rinktum Tiddy - Loosely based on this recipe, but I wouldn't recommend it without the changes I made to save it. See my note below for an alternate, nearly foolproof method. Despite the kitchen chaos, it was actually quite tasty.
2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, blanched briefly in boiling water, peeled, and seeds removed
2 teaspoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon brown mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese, plus another
4 ounces, also shredded
2 cups croutons
In a large, heavy, non-reactive saucepan, warm butter or oil over medium-low heat. Add onions, sautéeing until golden and translucent. Add tomatoes, mustard, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to luke warm. Pour into a blender to purée. Return to saucepan. Stir in a handful of cheese (from the 8-ounce measure) and return saucepan to heat, keeping it adjusted to its very lowest setting. Stir constantly and repeat until all the cheese is melted. Remove immediately from heat and pour sauce into a large non-reactive bowl. If it shows any unpleasant signs of curdling*, rub the sauce through a strainer into another bowl below it. Divide sauce into 4 broiler-proof ramekins. Toss remaining 4 ounces of cheese with croutons. Arrange ramekins on cookie sheet. Mound mixture on top of each ramekin, then slide cookie sheet under broiler, watching carefully, until cheese melts and croutons brown. Remove from oven (will be very hot), and serve immediately.
*You can also make a separate classic cheese sauce with a roux base which can be added to the tomato-onion purée (without the seasonings and mustard), then proceed with the topping. If all else fails, there's always take out.
This post, featuring tomatoes, is for Weekend Herb Blogging #204, hosted by me, presided over by Haalo, and originated by Kalyn. I'll be posting the round-up tomorrow night, New York time, unless something else curdles.