AUGUST 27, 2012



Late at night after a long shift, Cole Ellis, chef de cuisine of Nashville's Capitol Grille, often makes himself a midnight snack par excellence: a smoked baloney sandwich with chowchow relish and a thick smear of mayonnaise on, says Ellis, "the worst, crappiest white bread I can find."

Capitol Grille is well known for its farm-to-table ethos, with the Grille harvesting vegetables from a 66-acre farm five miles away. But Ellis, a native of Cleveland, Mississippi, is not immune to the pleasures of Southern comfort food. That includes the chicken and dumplings at Arnold's in Nashville, which he calls "one of the best things on the planet."

Ellis learned to cook when his mom returned to college. "I was hungry," he says, by way of explaining his path to the kitchen; "I had to fill that need." The tomato pie that Ellis created for Sous Chef Series is a righteous ode to summer, with a host of heirloom varieties set into a mayonnaise-and-Parmesan base, all baked into a buttery crust.


Cole Ellis':
See Recipe See the recipe for Cole Ellis' Tomato-Basil Pie



Top Crust

Though Ellis' piecrust calls for butter, he's been known to substitute bacon fat to great effect. He says using ice water is "a must" when making crust, and encourages home cooks to never make only one crust at a time. "I always make two," he says, "so there's always one waiting in the freezer."

Top Tomatoes

For the prettiest pie, Ellis uses an assortment of tomatoes, including colorful heirloom varieties and cherry tomatoes. Ellis harvests them from the garden at Glen Leven, a 66-acre farm within Nashville's city limits that supplies the Capitol Grille exclusively.

Tomato-Basil Pie


One 10-inch pie


All-purpose flour, 2½ cups, plus extra for rolling

Kosher salt, 1½ teaspoons

Unsalted butter, 2 sticks, cut into ½-inch cubes

Ice water, ¼ cup

Mayonnaise, 1½ cups

Buttermilk, ¼ cup

Large egg, 1

Fresh basil leaves, 4 cups (stacked, rolled and thinly sliced crosswise)

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, ¾ cup finely grated

Scallions, 6 (finely chopped)

Freshly ground black pepper, ¼ teaspoon

Medium tomato, 1 (halved and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices) or 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes


Measuring cups and spoons

Food processor (or a large mixing bowl and a whisk)

Chef’s knife

Cutting board

Plastic wrap

Rolling pin


10-inch tart pan, a 9½-inch deep-dish pie plate or a fluted 10-inch baking dish


Parchment paper or aluminum foil

Pie weights or dried beans


Medium mixing bowl

Cheese grater

Rubber spatula


1. Make the dough: Using the food processor (or a large bowl and a whisk), pulse together

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Add the

  • Unsalted butter cubes

Pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal (if using a mixing bowl, use your fingers to work the butter into the flour). While pulsing the machine, add the

  • Ice water

Pulse until the dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed in your hand, about 5 pulses (if using a mixing bowl, use a wooden spoon to stir the ice water into the flour).

Place a long piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board, turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap, flatten the dough with the heel of your hand into a 1-inch-thick disc, then wrap with the plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.

2. Adjust an oven rack to the bottom position and another rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured cutting board. Flour the top of the dough, then use the rolling pin to roll the dough into a 14-inch circle that is about ¼ inch thick. Carefully roll the dough up and onto the rolling pin, and use the pin to transfer the dough to the tart pan, fitting it into the bottom and sides of the pan and pinching off any excess dough. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

3. Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator. Use the fork to prick the bottom of the dough all over, then place a 14-inch sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil into the tart pan. Add enough dried beans or pie weights to weigh the paper down and bake the tart crust on the bottom rack until the edges of the crust are firm and beginning to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and carefully remove the parchment paper or aluminum foil and pie weights. Return the tart to the bottom oven rack and continue to bake until the crust is golden, about 10 to 15 minutes longer.

4. Meanwhile, make the pie filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together the

  • Mayonnaise
  • Buttermilk
  • Large egg
  • Fresh basil
  • ½ cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Scallions
  • Remaining ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pepper

5. Pour one-quarter of the pie filling into the tart shell. In a circular, overlapping pattern, arrange the

  • Tomato slices

Cover with the rest of the filling and top with the remaining

  • ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bake on the middle rack until the filling is set and the top of the tart is browned, about 30 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and cool at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving warm or at room temperature.

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