Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Tomato Tarte Tatin

The Tomato Tarte Tatin is something that is beautiful, ugly and impressive all at the same time. It's a pretty but sloppy mess with a damn fine combination of flavours. I came up with my recipe from cobbling together odd bits I'd seen on the internet like this awful youtube video was one on the sources I used along with some proper bits in 90's cook books. I think Gary Rhodes made one once. Whatever the reason the tomato tarte tatin is something I like to fix up on slow afternoon to cut through the dullness and bring a sense of absurd wonder back into the world.

To start you need to make sure you've got a frying pan that can go in the oven. You cannot make the tarte tatin without one of these.

You need a load of tomatoes at least 12+ good sized ones. They should be of reasonable quality, nice and red but I've made it with skanky value ones before. Cut the tomatoes in half, brush with olive oil, season and sprinkle with rosemary. The tomatoes need to be roasted in a hot oven on a raised roasting rack so they are not touching the bottom of the roasting dish. The aim here is to cook them into beautiful roastedness flavour while also drying them. place the tomatoes so the cut side is facing up as that needs to get a bit crispy.

How long the tomatoes take is up to you and the amount of time you have. It's this part of the cooking that determines the sloppyness of the finished meal. You can roast them on a high heat quickly for 40mins but they wont lose much water and will make the tarte sloppy. If you've got more time do them at 150c for at least 2 hours or even longer if you've got the patience. You can also peel the tomatoes before roasting but I've done this with or without peeling and it doesn't really make much difference.

While the tomatoes are roasting slice up 3 large red onions, put in a pan with a bit of olive oil and sweat them down gently. You want the onions real soft and looking a bit grey.

Once the tomato and onions are done it's time to build the tarte tatin. Normal tarte tatin with apples have a caramel syrup that wouldn't really work on a savoury dish. The tomato tarte tatin has a balsamic glaze. Put your oven ok frying pan on a high heat on the hob. Put a good dash of balsamic vinegar onto the pan. The aim here is to reduce the balsamic to a less vinegary thicker and sweeter substance. I normally put a spoonful of brown cane sugar in the pan to help it along. You really don't want it to be too vinegary or it can ruin the dish so taste it as it reduces to check the flavour. Be careful not to burn yourself. Once you've got a decent glaze syrup (you don't need much) take the pan off the heat and begin to build.

The tomatoes go flat side down onto the pan. Start in the middle and work outwards so you have an even and tight spread of tomatoes.

Next spoon the red onions on. Try to get these even again working from the middle outwards.

I crumble a block of feta and sprinkle that on next. You don't have to use the highest quality a cheap kind will do.

A layer of puff pastry comes next. Roll the pastry out and place on top of the pan. Cut off the excess pastry and push the rest into the pan so that the pastry has a tight seal on the innards.

The pan then goes in the oven at a high heat until the puff pastry has cooked.

Next comes the exciting bit turning the tarte upside down. Before we start please take care not to burn yourself with the molten balsamic glaze or brand yourself with the metal handle on your skillet/frying pan. Cover your hands with oven gloves and tea clothes so you don't get burnt.

Put a plate over the top of the pan so that it's covering the whole of the pan. You may want to experiment with different plates until you find one that you feel comfortable with turning. When your ready it takes one quick simple motion to turn the dish upside down with the plate held closely against it. Every time I've ever done it as soon as I move the upturned skillet away from the plate the tarte tatin has settled onto the plate below ready to serve.

Let the tarte cool a bit before serving. It actually tastes better at room temperature than as a hot dish. It's a decent beauty of a thing if you get it right. The tangy sweetness of the tomatoes and vinegar smudge into the salty mellowness of the feta and puff pastry.

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