I am just in the mood to do something exacting, special, and with that Rogue Chef flair. The recipe is simple, the technique is moderately demanding, and can be used with apples, pears, peaches, and bananas. Once mastered, this technique can produce show-stopper dishes to wow guests, spouses, and others.
One must have a well-seasoned cast iron skillet for this. Care must be taken in the preparation and cooking of the onions. The use of decent-quality ingredients is key to success; good honey and good vinegar with produce the sweet and sticky glaze, whilst good cheese will add a salty and savory component.
Note: I’ll use decent quality vinegar here, but NOT the really good stuff.
No matter what your results are, you can be assured of a delicious dish.
My first experiment with this was due to a bit of a challenge from one of the frequent visitors to the Bad Wolf kitchen, and eventually, I did gain sufficient mastery to win a grudging approval of my skills.
The story of the technique is culinary history:
The tarte Tatin was created accidentally at the Hôtel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, Loir-et-Cher, 169 km (105 mi) south of Paris, in the 1880s. The hotel was run by two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin. There are conflicting stories concerning the tart’s origin, but the most common is that Stéphanie Tatin, who did most of the cooking, was overworked one day. She started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. Smelling the burning, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. After turning out the upside down tart, she was surprised to find how much the hotel guests appreciated the dessert. In an alternative version of the tart’s origin, Stéphanie baked a caramelized apple tart upside-down by mistake: regardless, she served her guests the unusual dish. Whatever the veracity of either story, the concept of the upside down tart was not a new one. For instance, patissier Antonin Carême already mentions glazed gâteaux renversés adorned with apples from Rouen or other fruit in his Pâtissier Royal Parisien (1841).
The tarte became a signature dish of the Hôtel Tatin. Historians and gourmets have argued whether it is a genuine creation of the Demoiselles (Misses) Tatin, or the branding of an improved version of the “tarte solognote”, a traditional dish named after the Sologne region which surrounds Lamotte-Beuvron. Research suggests that while the tarte became a specialty of the Hôtel Tatin, the sisters did not set out to create a “signature dish”; they never wrote a cookbook or published their recipe; they never even called it tarte Tatin. That recognition was bestowed upon them by Curnonsky, the famous French author and epicure, as well as the Parisian restaurant Maxim’s after the sisters’ deaths.
One of the legends has it that Louis Vaudable, the owner of Maxim’s, once tasted it and was smitten. As he described it:
“I used to hunt around Lamotte-Beuvron in my youth and had discovered, in a very small hotel run by elderly ladies, a marvelous dessert listed on the menu under tarte solognote; I questioned the kitchen staff about its recipe, but was sternly rebuffed. Undaunted, I got myself hired as a gardener, but three days later, I was fired when it became clear that I could hardly plant a cabbage; however this was long enough to pierce the secrets of the kitchen; I brought the recipe back and put it on my menu under ‘tarte des demoiselles Tatin’.”
Originally, the tarte Tatin was made with two regional apple varieties: Reine des Reinettes (Pippins) and Calville. Over the years, other varieties have tended to displace them, including Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji and Gala.
Tarte Tatin can also be made with pears, bananas, quinces, peaches, pineapple, tomatoes, other fruit, or vegetables, such as onion.
The Tarte Tatin should be made with puff or shortcrust pastry.
Onion Tarte Tatin
- 1 Cast Iron Skillet 9" Must be oven-proof, check the handle
- 3 ea Red Onions Peeled, and wedged, SEE THE NOTES
- 1/4 cup Butter Unsalted
- 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar Decent Stuff, SEE THE NOTES
- 2 tbsp Honey Real Stuff, SEE THE NOTES
- Thyme Sprigs To Taste
- 8 oz Goat Cheese Fresh, good stuff
- 1 Sheet Puff Pastry
- Salt and Pepper To Taste
- Preheat the oven to 350F
- In the cast iron skillet, melt and foam out the butter over medium heat.
- Add the onions, turn and cook over medium heat until they start to brown. ~ 5 minutes. Take care when turning. Turn at least one.
- Add the honey and balsamic vinegar, and cook an additional 5 minutes. Try to arrange the onions into a pattern, as this will be seen whence the tart is inverted onto the serving plate.
- Add the thyme and season well with salt and pepper.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and arraange the cheese on top.
- Roll out the pastry into a circle slightly larger than the diameter of the skillet.
- Lift the pastry over the onions and tuck down the sides.
- Make two small slits for the steam to escape.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry is well-risen, golden brown, and crispy.
- Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes.
- Cover with a plate and invert. Leave the pan in place for 3-5 minutes, thence remove.
- Serve warm.
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