When it comes to canned tomatoes, we usually go for whole peeled or bust. Unlike crushed or grated tomatoes, our favorite whole peeled tomato brands have no additives other than salt (no calcium chloride makes the slices to stay firm or “added puree” that gives the tomato a “suspicious” consistency).
But there is one kind of canned tomato that we rarely talk about, and they are fire-roasted. The silence is now over: as it turns out, they have time and space to shine.
Fire Roasted tomatoes are exactly what they sound like: Tomatoes are charred over the fire before being canned (sometimes, they even add onion and garlic powder). Often, you can see blackened flecks on tomatoes. Contact with the flame brings out the sweetness of the tomato and, most importantly, gives off a clear smoke. In general, this is a shortcut to more flavor.
In Rick Martinez’s Chicken Tinga Tostadas, the smokiness is required to balance the fat in the bacon-y refried bean, the sharpy raw onions with creamy cheese on the top. You can definitely use whole peeled tomatoes, but the end result wouldn’t be dynamic. Like everything else going on in Tostadas, it tastes subtle – but definitely great.
If you do not have fire tomatoes, definitely do not try to make your own. The truth is that regular canned tomatoes work well as an alternative. You can also add a pinch of smoked paprika so that you get some similar taste to it.
When you are at the grocery store, pick up roasted tomatoes to keep in your pantry. When you decide to make that tostadas or a smoky salsa or you want to doctor up your usual chili, you’ll be glad to have it.