As much as I love roasted Roma tomatoes, Tomato Tarte Tatin, which appeared in the August issue of Bon Appetit, has become my new second-favorite way to cook these plum-shaped fruits. This is a sweet, not savory, dish best enjoyed as dessert or a treat—not a vegetable side dish.
My homegrown tomatoes are smaller than the market variety (we had a dry summer) so I used more and my taste is not as sweet as the BA chef’s, so I adjusted the butter and sugar down by roughly a third. The original recipe advises using a cast-iron or other stovetop and oven-proof pan. Not having one, I used a pottery fry pan. (Don’t even think of Pyrex and aluminum will not work well.) The size of your pan will determine how many tomatoes you will need: You want enough halves to cover the bottom of the pan snugly. Most of the time goes into peeling and seeding the tomatoes, but it’s an easy chore.
Tarte Tatin Recipe
8 to 10 plum tomatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons salt-free butter
a scant ½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of a package)
Remove the puff pastry from the freezer and set aside to thaw.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Remove the skin and seeds from the tomatoes: Boil a few inches of water in a pot. Fill a bowl with cold water and about a half dozen ice cubes. Slice an “x” into the stem top of the tomatoes (go only about ¼ inch deep). Put the tomatoes into the boiling water for about 15 seconds. Use a spoon to remove the tomatoes and put them into the water. One at a time, take them out, peel them, half them lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Discard the seeds and skins.
On medium heat, melt the butter in the pan. Sprinkle the sugar over the butter. Lay the tomatoes on the sugar, cut-side up. Cook until the butter browns (caramelizes) and the tomatoes are soft but not shapeless.
Remove the pan from the heat. Dot the tomatoes with vanilla. Lay the puff pastry on the tomatoes, cutting to fit. Make a couple of small slices in the pastry. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown
Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, flip the tart onto a serving platter: Cover the pan with the platter and turn it over, holding the platter in place. (My tartes have so far refused to come out without a nudge with a the edge of a knife or spatula.) Serve warm or at room temperature.
If you make it, tell me what you think.
The story behind this dish, originally made with apples, dates from around 1880. Sisters Caroline and Stéphanie Tatin owned the Hotel Tatin in Sologne, France. It was during hunting season and Stéphanie was making apple tarte, her father’s favorite.
One version of the story suggests that she was busy, forgot the apples caramelizing on the stove, and when they cooked a bit too much, she put the pastry on top rather than discard the ingredients. Another tale claims that she was flirting with a hunter and took her eye off of the apples. A third suggests that the pie fell on the floor and she put it back together.
In any case, the hunters loved it, Stéphanie continued making it, and eventually word spread to the chef at Maxim’s in Paris who made it—and the sisters—famous.
Janice Stillman joined the Almanac as editor in 2000. When she is not working the words, she enjoys peddling a bicycle, growing things to eat, cooking, and handcrafts (especially knitting because needles and yarn can be taken anywhere).