This recipe was inspired by the following conversation on Hotline about whether or not you can make jam by roasting it in the oven: http://food52.com/hotline... No stirring? No mess on your stove? No worrying about burning the preserves if you walk away from the stove for a few minutes? I had to try it!
Roasting jam delivered on its promises -- I layered sliced tomatoes with sugar and spices in a round braising pan, and let the oven do the rest of the work. I checked on the jam a few times but with the even heat of the oven, there was never any worry that the jam would stick to the pan base. And the edges of the tomatoes on top caramelized a bit. What more could I ask for? Next up: peaches! —Amanda Hesser
Pour 1/3 of the sugar over the base of a 12-inch braising pan or other baking dish. Layer half the tomatoes, overlapping the slices, in the pan. Sprinkle with the salt, 1/3 cup sugar, and top with the lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, and chiles. Top with the remaining tomatoes, followed by the rest of the sugar. Let sit for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the pan, uncovered in the oven and let cook for 1 hour. The tomato juices should simmer actively. Check every 20 minutes, spooning the juices over the top tomatoes, and removing the chiles if they char.
Continue roasting and checking every 20 minutes -- the tomato juices should begin to gel at 2 hours, but it could happen a little sooner or later. Test the juices by spooning a little onto a plate, letting it cool, and running your finger though it. If it holds the line, the jam is ready. Remove the jam from the oven and let cool. I eat this jam fresh so I put it into jars and keep it in the fridge.
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.