I wouldn’t normally mess with perfection, and a raw tomato sandwich is just that. I was just looking for a way to eat more tomato sandwiches without eating the exact same thing every day in August. In fact, these are still virtually raw, and it’s the flaky Panko, Parmesan and herb topping that takes the brunt of a few moments under the broiler. So it’s just another tomato sandwich except a little better, because it starts with frying bread.
Bread that is buttered on both sides, generously, gets golden and lightly crispy in a hot pan, then hangs around–preferably on a wire rack so it doesn’t get soggy while you carry on with the two other small tasks. A serrano chili has heat but also the flavour I wanted to spike my mayonnaise with (store-bought this time, but feel free to make your own). You can use a milder chili or even a drop of chili oil for a different but, I’m sure, delicious take. And change up the herbs if you’d like too–I used parsley and chives. But the Panko and Parmesan is the best combo for the topping, both get gently crisped making a nice bookend to the fried toasts on the other side of this open-faced sandwich.
Tomato Gratinée on Fried Toasts with Serrano Mayonnaise
4 thin (sandwich) slices of bread
1/4 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1-2 serrano chilies
1/4 c mayonnaise
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs Panko (or other) bread crumbs
2 tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbs packed, chopped fresh parsley
1 tbs packed, chopped fresh chives
1 large heirloom (if possible) tomato, or the equivalent, cut into thick slices
Ground black pepper
Butter each slice of bread on both sides, and fry them in a hot, dry pan on both sides until lightly golden and crispy. Remove from pan and set aside, preferably on a cooling rack or other grated surface so they don’t get soggy.
Halve the chili(es) lengthwise, and remove and discard the stem and seeds. Mince the halves and mash them in a mortar and pestle to form a rough paste–or just keep mincing to get to as much of a rough paste as you can. Scoop the paste and juices into the mayonnaise, mix well and set aside.
Mix the beradcrumbs, cheese and herbs together. Lightly grease a baking sheet with the oil, lay the tomato slices on top and season them lightly with salt and pepper. Top each slice of tomato with the breadcrumb mixture, pressing it slightly into them, and drizzle with oil.
Set your oven to broil (ideally a low broil) and put the tray of tomatoes in. Watch the tomatoes carefully and when the tops turn a light gold colour (which may take under 1 minute), remove them–this one goes from gold to badly burnt very quickly.
Spread mayonnaise generously on each slice of fried bread and season lightly with Kosher salt. Lay slices of gratnéed tomatoes on top of the mayonnaise and sprinkle the golden tops with some crushed Maldon salt. Serve open-faced and skip the knife and fork–you must bite right in.