Uses for Canning Tomatoes with Chef Michael Symon

Uses for Canning Tomatoes with Chef Michael Symon

Chef Michael Simon says canned tomatoes are more than just a homemade pasta sauce.  (Photos: Contadina)

Chef Michael Simon says canned tomatoes are more than just a homemade pasta sauce. (Photos: Contadina)

A staple in many households, tried and true canned tomatoes are used time and time again in everything from homemade pasta sauce to salsa. Although you’d be hard-pressed to find a pantry without a box on hand, many use these kitchen wonders for the same recipes over and over again.

But celebrity chef Michael Symon is trying to change that. Symon says he hopes to shake things up by sharing new ways to bring canned tomatoes to life in a modern home kitchen. It often touches the pantry staple to add flavor to a variety of dishes, not just a quick spaghetti sauce at night.

“The great thing about me [canned tomatoes] they can be cooked and fried”, o Iron Chef says Yahoo Life. “Once fall sets in and we get a little bit into winter, a little beef stew where you add diced tomatoes to it, it gives such a nice backbone to the dish.”

“I believe too [canned tomatoes are] perfect for folding into rice dishes — whether you’re making a quick rice or paella or risotto,” she adds. “As a chef, I look for things I can rely on… I might add [canned tomatoes] and they add tremendous flavor and are incredibly consistent.”

Symon, a Food Network personality spoke to Yahoo Life as part of his work promoting the Contadina canned tomato brand. As part of the campaign, he developed a vibrant tomato chili relish that he says is simple to make and even easier to enjoy.

“We were working on the recipe and I made a bunch of jars of it and put them in the fridge,” she says. “That’s when I knew it was good, because everyone got addicted to it. I made about four gallons of slightly different variations and it was gone in a week. People were using it with cheese, dipping chips in it like a dip—we were flying through it.”

In addition to a perfectly developed recipe, the 53-year-old restaurateur says that canned tomatoes are a useful tool that ensures consistency in every batch. “I’m a huge gardener and obviously, there are a lot of tomatoes growing in my garden even now,” he says. “But to be able to rely on something that you know is going to be ripe every time? I think that’s incredibly beneficial.”

Symon shares the inspiration for the sweet and spicy tomato chili relish came from his love of another widely popular condiment. “The chili delight sort of came from my slight addiction to crunchy chili,” he says. “Obviously you can’t make the crisp with tomatoes because of the moisture in them, but we wanted to use the tomatoes to give it a little bit more depth of flavor and make something that we could create, pop and refrigerate and then to work. in other dishes”.

To prepare the tomato chili relish, Symon suggests using disposable gloves to clean the dried guajillo and pasilla-ancho chiles. Next, cut off the top of the stem from each and shake off any loose seeds before grinding the chilies until they resemble red pepper flakes.

From there, the ground chilies go into a heat-safe bowl with sugar, salt, paprika, and ginger. While these are sitting to the side, in a medium sauce pot, stir the neutral oil and the shallots occasionally until the shallots turn a light golden color. Then strain the shallots, reserving the oil. Then repeat the process by cooking the garlic to a light golden color in the same oil.

Next, the star of the dish, a can of drained Contadina tomatoes, is added to a pot over medium-high heat. Continue stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has cooked off and the tomatoes are fragrant, which usually takes about five minutes.

“Starting the tomatoes in the pan first is to draw out some of that moisture and intensify the flavors of the tomatoes even more,” says Symon. “It’s a great tip. Don’t be afraid to add a pinch of salt or two to really remove the moisture and reduce this product.”

Once done, pour the reserved oil over the tomatoes and bring to a simmer, allowing the tomatoes to fry in the oil for about a minute. To finish the dish, pour the tomato mixture over the dried chili mixture and stir. Once the mixture has cooled, it is ready to use or store in a jar in the refrigerator.

“If you want the texture of the crunch, you can add the onions and garlic right at the end and serve right away so you get that crunch,” adds Symon. “I like the ease of it. If I’m entertaining, I make it a week or ten days in advance and just have it.”

For someone like the Food Network’s host BBQ USAwho spends most of his life in the kitchen, Symon says he understands that sometimes a pre-made sauce or canned ingredient can make all the difference.

“I cook every day of my life,” she says. “I love cooking — people say, ‘You come home from work and cook?’ and I say “Always”. Sunday is my day off and we have twenty people for dinner. That’s just how it works. But you also want solid simplicity sometimes, things that can make your life a little easier.”

Symon shares his top tips for enjoying this delicious treat at home for a casual dinner or even while entertaining. “It would be great with any different protein or even just folded into pasta with a little olive oil and butter,” she says. “It’s really versatile and making it ahead is a great tip for people at home to get a jump on things, whether you’re making a quick dinner for your family on a weeknight or entertaining on the weekends, to have something like this in your fridge that you can turn to is just wonderful.”

Grilled chicken with tomato chili

Concession of Contantina and chef Michael Symon

(Photo: Contadina/Michael Symon)

(Photo: Contadina/Michael Symon)

Service 4-6


  • Olive oil

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 fresh bay leaves

  • 1 small onion, halved

  • 1 4 to 6 kg whole chicken, cleaned

Tomato Chili Relish:

  • 1 1/4 cups neutral oil, such as canola

  • 1/2 cup torn dried guajillo chiles, see method

  • 1/2 cup torn dried pasilla-ancho chiles, see method

  • 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 tablespoon of finely grated ginger

  • 1 cup thinly sliced ​​shallots

  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced ​​fresh garlic

  • 14.5 oz can Contadina petite tomatoes, drained

  • Parsley chopped


  1. Using disposable gloves, clean the chilies. Using kitchen shears, cut the top of the stem off each chilli and shake out any loose seeds.

  2. Once all the chilies are cleaned, add them to a spice grinder or food processor. Sprinkle until the chilies resemble red pepper flakes, small and natural in size. (About 1/3 cup, ground.)

  3. Pour the chilies into a heatproof bowl. Add the sugar, salt, paprika and ginger to the bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.

  4. In a medium sauce pot, mix the neutral oil and the shallots. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are golden brown, 5 minutes.

  5. Drain the shallots, reserving the oil.

  6. Put the oil back into the saucepan over medium high heat and add the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden, 2 minutes.

  7. Drain the garlic, reserving the oil. Set aside the fried garlic and shallots on a tray lined with paper towels to crisp.

  8. Place the pot back over medium-high heat and add the drained tomatoes to the dry pan.

  9. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has cooked off and the tomatoes are fragrant, 5 minutes. Pour the reserved oil over the tomatoes and let them simmer. Let the tomatoes fry in the oil for 1 minute. Remove from the fire.

  10. Pour the tomato mixture over the dried chile mixture and stir to combine. Set aside to cool completely, about 45 minutes.

  11. Preheat your oven to 450F.

  12. Place the chicken on a baking sheet lined with foil. Place the bay leaves and onion in the cavity of the chicken, then tuck the wings behind the breast.

  13. Pour olive oil over the chicken and rub it all over. Season with salt and pepper, then place in the oven, uncovered, to roast for 50 minutes, until golden brown and crispy and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160 F.

  14. During the last 20 minutes of cooking, brush the chicken with the tomato chili oil every 10 minutes.

  15. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it stand for 20 minutes, allowing the juices to reabsorb.

  16. Meanwhile, toss the fried shallots and garlic in the remaining tomato chili oil.

  17. Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and put it on a plate. Spoon the tomato chili over the chicken and serve.

  18. Any leftover tomato chili will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

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