I recently came across a very detailed recipe for a tomato Tarte Tatin in August’s Bon Appetit. Now I used to make Tarte Tatins at every opportunity. They were hard to beat: You put butter and sugar into a cast iron pan and it magically turned into caramel. You added pears or apples skin side down, covered the thing with pastry and into the oven it went. Once done, you cautiously fiipped the tart over and voila! Your pretty pears or apples glistened on a bed of pastry. Add a scoop of ice cream and you had a dessert that even I could make. This was of course before Andrew took up baking. Now, if I made dessert, people would be convinced that I’d lost my mind. But I couldn’t get the Tomato Tarte Tatin out of my mind.
|Hotel Tatin, still in operation in|
|Version # 1 with|
So I scooped out the center of the tomatoes--seeds, pulp and all—and stuffed them with the cheese. I topped that with a layer of carefully caramelized onion. I topped the whole dish with a sheet of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry and into the oven it went. After baking, I let it cool for five minutes before turning it out on a flat-surfaced plate. The flat surface is essential to the success of this tart or it will lose its shape.
I served the tart with rashers of bacon and a green salad—think deconstructed BLT on a plate. It was excellent. But Andrew made a suggestion that made a genuine improvement on the original.
The tomatoes in version one were beautiful to look at. But they were so juicy, they overwhelmed the pastry. Andrew’s idea was to slow roast halved plum tomatoes. This had two results: The tomato flavor was even more concentrated and the tomatoes gave up enough juice that the puff pastry crust was still relatively crisp. Once these beauties came out of the oven, I let them cool and slipped the skins off. I brushed the skinless tomatoes with Balsamic Vinegar. I didn’t scoop out the centers but laid the tomatoes cut side up in the tart pan. Over that went the layer of caramelized onion which I covered with a layer of fresh basil leaves. I’d used all my Mozzarella but cheese was essential to the dish and I went with 2 cups of coarsely grated Parmigiano Romano. The puff pastry topped the dish and into the oven it went. In 25 minutes, my Tomato Tart Tatin emerged from the oven, cooled for 5 minutes and was inverted on the flat surfaced plate. You can see the results at the top of this post. I’d say this is a winner in every way. Now there was nothing wrong with version # 1, which you can make just as I did. But roasting the tomatoes was such a boon to the flavor, I’ll stick with version # 2. And about the roasting time: Yes, it’s a 3 hour process but you can do it the night before simply and easily and the result will be well worth your time. Plus, if you make a big batch, you will have gorgeous roasted tomatoes to put into pasta sauce or serve as a side dish all by themselves. Here is my recipe:
Recipe for Savory Roasted Tomato Tarte Tatin
Serves 6. Takes 3 ½ hours start to finish. Active time 45 minutes.
Special Equipment: A 20 centimeter tart dish or cast iron skillet with a depth of at least 1 ½ inches.
8 Plum tomatoes, halved.*
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced.
Basil leaves (about 12 large)
2 cups of coarsely grated Reggiano Parmigiano Cheese
Salt and Pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees.
Put the tomatoes, skin side down on a sheet pan. Brush the cut side of the tomatoes with olive oil, then generously salt and pepper them.
Put them in the oven for 3 hours, rotating the sheet pans occasionally so that they roast evenly. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool until they can be handled.
Peel the skins off the tomatoes. (This is not at all hard to do.) If doing this the night before making the Tarte, set the peeled tomatoes aside and refrigerate.
When you are ready to bake the tart, take the puff pastry out of the freezer and defrost for 20 minutes.
Brush the outside or the tomatoes with balsamic vinegar. Also brush the bottom of the tart pan or cast iron skillet.
Put the tomatoes peeled side down into the pan or skillet.
Pre heat oven to 425 degrees.
In a non-stick skillet, melt 1 tbsp. unsalted butter and 1 tbsp. Olive Oil. Put the thinly sliced sweet onion in the pan and gently caramelize it until it is golden brown. Remove from heat. Set aside.
Once the onions are slightly cooled, strew them over the tomatoes in the pan or skillet.
Put a layer of basil leaves over the onions.
Grate 2 cups of Reggiano Parmigiano. Cover the basil with the grated cheese.
On a lightly floured surface, unroll the puff pastry sheet and use a rolling pin to extend the size of the sheet so that it will completely cover the tart pan or skillet. Lift the crust onto the dish and trim it to fit exactly. Put the pan or skillet on a sheet pan or baking sheet with sides. (Some liquid may seep out during the cooking process so do not use anything without sides.)
Put the tart in a 425 degree oven for 25 minutes until pastry is puffed and golden. Let cool for 5 minutes. Invert on flat surfaced plate.
Cut into wedges and serve.
* It seems a shame to only roast 8 tomatoes. I bought 5 lbs of them, about 18 all told and have plenty on hand.