The original Tarte Tatin was the invention of two French sisters. Carolina and Stephine Tatin were the owners of a hotel in the Loire Valley town of Lamotte-Beuvron. L’Hotel Tatin’s kitchen was presided over by the elder sister Stephine. In 1888, legend has it that the midday crowds drawn to the hotel in hunting season apparently addled Stephine, a particularly fine cook. For some reason, she inverted her pie dish so that the apples were on top and the pastry underneath. She needed to get dessert on the table so she served her creation not even giving it time to cool. (Now, by the way, every self-respecting Tarte Tatin is served warm from the oven.) The dessert was a huge hit with the Tatin sisters’ customers. Its fame reached Paris. The owner of Maxim’s Restaurant dispatched a cook/spy, disguised as a gardener, to Lamotte-Beuvron to uncover the secret. The spy was successful and brought the recipe back to Maxim’s where it has been on the menu ever since. I wanted to put a Tarte Tatin on our menu for weekend houseguests and so I set out to create a savory version using the beautifully ripe tomatoes crowding our local farm stands. Here’s what I discovered.
Plum tomatoes were the foundation of the sweet tomato Tarte Tatin and so I went with those. For some reason, they are priced at about half that of the beefsteaks and Roma varieties. Now this is really good news if you are making this dish out of season. Plum tomatoes are much more reliably ‘ripe’ during the winter months. So this dish can be made anytime. I had reserved some Mozzarella Bufala to make the dish. Buffalo Mozzarella has more tang to it than it’s cow’s milk counterpart adding to the savory quality I wanted in my Tarte.
Tomato Tarte Tatin
There's a big reward at the end of this preparation. An absolutely superb dish to serve at lunch or as a starter at dinner. NOTE: 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
- 1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, defrosted.
- Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Salt and Pepper
- Step 1 Pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees.
- Step 2 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.
- Step 3 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.
- Step 4 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.
- Step 5 When you are ready to bake the tart, take the puff pastry out of the freezer and defrost for 20 minutes.
- Step 6 Brush the outside or the tomatoes with balsamic vinegar. Also brush the bottom of the tart pan or cast iron skillet.
- Step 7 Put the tomatoes peeled side down into the pan or skillet.
- Step 8 Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
- Step 9 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.
- Step 10 Once the onions are slightly cooled, strew them over the tomatoes in the pan or skillet.
- Step 11 Put a layer of basil leaves over the onions.
- Step 12 Grate 2 cups of Reggiano Parmigiano. Cover the basil with the grated cheese.
- Step 13 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.)
- Step 14 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.
- Step 15 Cut into wedges and serve.
- Step 16 * It seems a shame to only roast 8 tomatoes. I bought 5 lbs of them, about 18 all told and have plenty on hand.