Monday, December 8, 2008

Tarte Tatin, Alice Waters-Style

I made a tarte tatin on Sunday. My mother's been making them for years, and they're delicious. Plus, I needed a dessert to take to my book club that I could make ahead, transport easily, and that wasn't too big of a deal to put together (a snowy Sunday in Boston means I have zero motivation to get dozens of ingredients out of the cabinets, and even less inspiration to run to the store for anything I'm missing.

Enter Alice Waters. Her recipe for tarte tatin in The Art of Simple Food calls for one pan, four ingredients and about an hour of your time. In fact, ready? Here's the entire recipe in three sentences:
1. Cook butter and sugar in a cast iron pan until it makes gooey caramel.
2. Put apple pieces in on top of the caramel as crammed in as possible, and then put a pie crust over that.
3. Cook the entire thing in a 400 degree oven for about a half hour until it's golden brown.

The only real tricks, as far as I could tell were making sure the caramel cooked enough without burning (low heat, stir a lot, and keep an eye on it - not something you can leave while you go wander off into the bowels of your apartment); and getting the cooked tarte out of the pan before the caramel hardens and you have a freeform permanent sculpture in what was formerly your cheap, durable, and kitchen-essential cast iron pan. To get it out, do the flip thing with a platter that's of a greater diameter than the pan (I used a square bamboo cutting board). Also, clean out the cast iron pan as soon as possible - once the caramel gets hard, there's no chipping it out, really.

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