The Handoff: Tomato Tarte Tatin
By Gillian Ferguson
At last…we arrive at the fun part. As I mentioned on Tuesday Marlena’s use of heirloom tomatoes in her Salade Chevre Chaud spurred me to embark on a Tomato Tarte Tatin. I love making tarte tatin. It’s the challenge that thrills me – I imagine my feelings are much like those that little boys must feel when they are about to blow something up. “Is this going to hurt like hell?” I wonder in those few moments before I flip the 425 degree skillet upside down in an attempt to detach the molten hot pastry underneath. So far – and I am knocking on wood as I write this – it has worked out, but the fear persists with each new attempt and I sort of like that. Keeps me on my toes…
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I’m going to cut right to the chase. If you want to make your own pastry feel free. I’m a glutton for punishment and so I like making pie dough in the peak of summer. It’s a race against time – before you even begin your butter is melting. Ever since I broke my food processor trying to make a monster batch of hummus I have had to make pie dough by hand. There are purists who say that is the only way to go, but let me tell you – I miss my food processor. If I were really a masochist I would have made puff pastry, but instead I just made pie dough and included baking powder to give it the texture of puff pastry. For those of you sane people, just go buy some frozen puff pastry at the store.
Tomato Tarte Tatin
Prep Time: 15 min (if you make your own dough add 45 min + 1 day)
Cook Time: 45 min
Total Time: 1 hour (if you make your own dough add 45 min + 1 day
Yield: 1 10 inch tart
Ingredients (these are for a 10 inch skillet – adjust accordingly to your skillet size)
- 1 batch of your favorite homemade pie dough or puff pastry dough or 1 store bought puff pastry
- 4 Tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 large sprig of thyme
- 6 medium to large tomatoes
- 10-15 cherry tomatoes (or more if needed)
- balsamic vinegar
- basil, to garnish
- Whether you’ve made or purchased your dough, roll it out to a thickness of your liking and then cut it into a circle just larger than the rim of your oven-proof skillet. Put the round of dough in the freezer (or fridge if it’s quite cold) while you start your tomatoes.
- Slice a variety of tomatoes. I used red tomatoes from my garden, cherry tomatoes from the market, and 2 yellow heirlooms (for different color) from Whole Foods. The amount of tomatoes needed depends on the size of your skillet, the tomatoes should fill 1/3- 1/2 of the depth of the skillet. My 10 inch skillet fit 6 medium tomatoes (sliced) and 13 large cherry tomatoes (halved). This is an incredibly adaptable recipe, so feel free to adjust the ingredients to your liking.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Put butter, sugar and the whole sprig of thyme in skillet over medium heat. Allow to turn a light brown, but don’t let it burn.
- Add 1 layer of tomato slices and turn up heat. Sprinkle with a thin layer of sugar, a generous pinch of salt and a dribble of balsamic vinegar. Repeat until you have a solid 2 or 3 layers of tomatoes depending on the depth of your pan. There will be quite a bit of juice rising up the sides of the pan. Continue cooking over high heat until the juices have reduced and caramelized and when you gently shake the pan the tomato mixture moves as one entity.
- Take the skillet off the heat. At this point you want to place the round of dough on top of the tomatoes. Work fast so it doesn’t melt. Tuck in the sides of the dough around the edges of the pan. Place the entire pan in the oven and bake until the crust is golden brown (about 30 minutes).
- Now the fun part. Take the skillet out of the oven. Get a plate larger than the circumference of the skillet and place it on top. CAREFULLY, and with oven mitts on both hands, in one motion invert the skillet onto the plate. When you lift the skillet the tarte tatin should be in one piece. You may have to ‘un-stick’ some tomatoes and place them back on the tart.
- Allow it to cool to room temperature and remove the sprig of thyme before serving. I recommend serving this for dessert with either basil, olive oil or even vanilla ice cream. In a blind taste test it would pass for a peach tart.
Gillian Ferguson writes the blog I Have A Lemon Tree. She lives in Venice, CA.