Sausage and Maple Stuffed Tomatoes
Serves 6 to 8.
Note: Keep the tomatoes covered two-thirds through the cooking process and then uncover to let them steam-cook, which prevents them from getting overly browned and tough on top. Whether this dish is for an evening meal or hearty breakfast, rounding it out with a poached egg serves up a good combo. From Ross Sveback in “Lodge Cast Iron Nation.”
• 6 to 8 ripe medium tomatoes
• Kosher salt
• 1 lb. bulk country-blend pork sausage (don’t use Italian seasoned)
• 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-in. dice
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 7 to 8 oz. button mushrooms, cut into 1/2-in. dice
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• 1/2 c. pure maple syrup
• 2 c. plain dry breadcrumbs
• 2 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
• 1 c. (4 oz.) grated Parmesan cheese
• Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
Core tomatoes and, using a melon baller, scoop out the insides (save for another use or discard). Sprinkle inside of tomatoes with salt, and set tomatoes upside-down for 30 minutes on a wire rack set over the sink or a baking sheet to catch the juice.
While the tomatoes drain, cook the sausage in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until no longer pink, breaking it into small pieces. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to paper towels. Do not drain the fat from the pan. Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring a few times, until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and oil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their moisture, about 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine sausage and mushroom mixture. Add the maple syrup, breadcrumbs, sage, cheese and pepper to taste.
Using your hands, evenly divide the filling among the tomatoes, gently pushing the filling in to pack it, and press a roughly 1/4-cup mound on top of each tomato. Place stuffed tomatoes on baking sheet. At this point, you can cover the tomatoes with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake or overnight.
If you have refrigerated the tomatoes, pull them out 30 minutes before you intend to bake them to take the chill off. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Replace plastic wrap with aluminum foil and bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.