Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tarte Tatin



A few days ago, I was walking by Nordstrom’s, and I noticed a sign that said something to the order of not ‘decking the halls’ until after November 27th, because ‘Nordstrom’s believes in celebrating one holiday at a time’. It hit me then, that far from planning for Christmas, I had not even started thinking about Thanksgiving yet. A very busy work schedule, of late, has demanded all my time and attentions, but I realize that with a house full of guests arriving in time for the T-giving meal, I better put my thinking cap on.

We all have our favorite thing about the Thanksgiving meal. Whether it’s the T(of)urkey or the mashed potatoes; the green bean casserole that gets made only on this occasion in my house; the cranberry sauce, a personal favorite; or the various pies and sweet things reserved for the dessert course, after everyone has had to loosen their belt buckles a few notches. While I enjoy making most of these dishes, each year, I swear that next year, my Thanksgiving menu will look different. Perhaps I will do a Latin or Asian-inspired theme. Maybe I will make scalloped potatoes instead of mashed. But ultimately, whether due to popular demand or due to the fact that I only make most of these foods at Thanksgiving, I end up settling on more or less the same menu each year.

This year, though, I’m making at least one change to the menu. Instead of apple pie, I’m going to make tarte tatin! Doesn’t that sound like a real blow to tradition? Well, it turns out that tarte tatin, which is something I’ve always had a fancy to make, is remarkably similar to apple pie. But it’s a lot lighter tasting, easier to make, and yummier than most apple pies. A few posts ago, I lamented about my lack of restraint at you-pick apple orchards. So, I decided to pilot this recipe with some left over apples, to make sure that it deserved a spot on the heaving Thanksgiving table. I’m happy to report that not only is this recipe going to be part of the menu this year, it is so good that it is likely to remain parked on the menu for many more years to come.

The only thing I didn’t like about this recipe is that it doesn’t photograph well, especially when faced with the dying evening light and the prying fingers of a hungry husband. So please pardon the poor pictures, but do give this recipe a try – perhaps you will like it enough to make it part of your Thanksgiving menu, as well.

To make Tarte Tatin, you will need:

8 apples (I prefer Gala)

1T salt

1 stick butter

¾ C sugar

1-inch piece of fresh ginger*

1 T ginger powder*

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten with 1 T cold water

All-purpose flour for sprinkling on puff pastry

*The ginger flavorings are optional. While it's not part of a traditional Tarte Tatin, I find the pairing of apple and ginger hard to pass up.

Preheat oven to 375 deg F.

Wash, peel, and core the apples. Cut them into quarters and submerge in a bowl of cold water with the salt added to it. This will prevent your apples from turning brown while you prepare your other ingredients.

Finely chop or grate fresh ginger.

Melt butter in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet.

Add sugar, ginger powder and fresh ginger and immediately arrange apples all over the skillet, making any pattern you wish. Make sure to cover all spaces with the apples, overlapping if needed, as they may shrink considerably.

Cook’s Note 1: I like to make sure to put the rounded side of the apple quarters (not the side where the core used to be) facing the bottom of the skillet.

Cook’s Note 2: If you have any apple pieces that didn’t fit, resist the temptation to eat them all at this point. Save at least a couple, in case you find yourself with open gaps in your apple mixture, due to shrinkage while cooking.

Boil without disturbing apples until sugar caramelizes, about 10 mins

While this is happening, dust puff pastry with a little bit of flour and roll out to a ~12 inch diameter circle.

Once sugar has caramelized, take skillet off heat, and top with puff pastry circle.

Using a spatula, tuck in the puff pastry on the edges, around the apple mixture.

Brush on egg mixture, and cut a few steam vents in puff pastry.

Bake in oven for about 15 minutes, or until the puff pastry is a dark golden brown.

Remove from oven, carefully, using thick mitts. Place a plate on top of skillet. Very carefully, using mitts, invert pan so that tarte slides onto plate. If any apple pieces were left behind, carefully jiggle them out with a spoon and place in the correct spot on the tarte.

Slice into 8 wedges, and serve warm with vanilla bean ice-cream.

This keeps well at room temperature for up to 2 days and can be warmed up by the slice in a microwave.

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