Two tables. Ten chairs. Twenty forks.
Dinner was at eight.
The guest of honor was Ilana. She had just returned from two weeks in Nicaragua. She doesn’t eat meat.
The menu was vegetarian.
Dinner was planned around a tomato tarte tatin. Ilana likes a good tarte tatin.
I made two.
Luckily I have two pans.
In the blue pan, the onions were caramelized. In the orange, the first caramel was made.
The caramel was layered with tomatoes then smothered in onions.
The salt was sprinkled. The pepper was ground. The thyme leaves were plucked.
The first pastry was rolled, its edges tucked in, its surface slashed.
It made it to the oven.
The blue pan was cleaned, its onions set aside.
The whole process began again, this time with colorful baby heirloom tomatoes.
One tarte out, the next tarte in.
The tartes were flipped, first the orange, then the blue.
Dinner was served.
We all tucked in.
Caramelized tomato tarte tatin
This tarte is based on a recipe that Melissa Clark wrote for her column, “A good appetite” in the New York Times back in 2008 and two tomato tarte tatin recipes in Tamasin Day-Lewis’s The Art of the Tart. I looked for this recipe after having a tomato tarte tatin at a newly opened cafe called Tatte. Tarte tatins are traditionally dessert fare, made with apples. This tarte is a combination of sweet and savory with the traditional caramel spiked with sweet and acidic balsamic. Throw some crumbled feta or goat cheese on it if you’d like.
- puff pastry (I use 1 of the pastries in a 17 oz Pepperidge Farm 2-pack)
- 2 T olive oil
- 3 red onions
- 1/4 C plus a pinch of sugar
- 1 T balsamic vinegar
- 1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 T chopped fresh thyme
- salt and pepper
Prep. Defrost the puff pastry for 20-30 minutes on the counter, or overnight in the refrigerator. OR, make your own. (Yeah, right!) Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Slice onions very thin.
Caramelize. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onions with a pinch of sugar, stirring, until the onions are golden and caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. Add 2 T water and scrape off the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. When the water cooks off, transfer the onions to a bowl.
Swirl. This time, make a sugar caramel. In an overproof 9- or 10-inch pan (I have a few Le Creusets that fit the bill), combine 1/4 cup sugar and 3 T water. Cook over medium heat, swirling the pan gently. Do not stir, just swirl. Stirring could result in crystallization and a grainy caramel. Watch the sugar very closely – the moment it starts to turn a light golden brown, remove it from the heat to avoid burning. Turn on your fan, add the balsamic and move your head back – the fumes are very strong, almost like smelling salts. Continue swirling until the vinegar mixes with the caramel.
Scatter. Scatter the tomatoes onto the caramel, then sprinkle with the onions, thyme, salt, and pepper.
Roll. Roll out the puff pastry dough between two pieces of wax paper into a circle about 1 inch larger than your pan.
Tuck. Transfer the pastry to cover the tomatoes. Tuck the edges around the tomatoes. Cut several long vent in the pastry.
Bake. Bake the tart until the crust is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes.
Flip. Let the tart stand for about 30 minutes. Run a knife around the pastry to loosen it from the pan. Place a platter on top of the pan and carefully flip the tarte over. Cut into wedges and serve immediately. After a few hours the crust will get soggy, so make sure to eat the whole tarte at once.