I have a recipe that asks for "tomato concassé". What is it and how is it used?--Julie
Tomato concassé (pronounced "kon-kah-SAY") is a dice of tomatoes which have been peeled and the seeds removed. Recipes that use concassé are striving for a finer result, showing that you cared enough about the quality of the final product to remove seeds, which can be tough and bitter; and the skin, which won't soften during cooking.
To make tomato concassé, start with fresh, ripe tomatoes. Bring a pot of water, deep enough to cover the tomatoes, to a boil. For each tomato, remove the tough part where the stem used to be by using the tip of a paring knife to carve a small cone-shaped piece out of the stem end. Next turn the tomato over, and on the other end mark a small cross in the skin with the knife. Each cut should be about an inch (2.5 cm) long.
When the tomatoes are ready, place a few at a time in the boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, allow them to cook about a minute longer and then remove them using a slotted spoon. Parboil all of the tomatoes in this fashion. When the tomatoes have cooled enough to handle, slide the edge of a paring knife just under the corner of one of the intersections of the cross cut earlier. Trap the skin against the blade of the knife by gently pressing with the thumb of the hand holding the knife and pull the skin away. Continue to work around the tomato, removing all of the skin.
Two things will take some practice. One is recognizing when the tomatoes have boiled long enough. You don't want them to soften and get mushy, but you do want the skins to loosen. The amount of time will vary, depending on how ripe the tomatoes are. The other is learning how to peel the tomato. It just takes practice and a bit of care.
Once all of the tomatoes are peeled, cut each in half around its middle, and gently squeeze out the seeds. Sometimes you may find that you need to use your fingers ("impeccably clean" as Julia Child would always say), or a small spoon, to convince the seeds to let go. Discard the skins and seeds.
After all of the tomatoes are seeded, chop them up. Depending on the recipe and your inclination, this may be a rough chop or a fine dice.
Some cooks ignore the peeling and seeding and simply chop up their tomatoes for the recipe. However, considering how little work it takes to make a concassé, it is sometimes worth the effort to produce a really top quality dish.