Saturday, January 02, 2010

Shallot Tarte Tatin

The official, and jealously guarded recipe for a Tarte Tatin is here (I particularly admire their admonishment, in bright red capital letters that any Tarte Tatin ordered with cream or flambeed is "AN IMPROPER USAGE OF THE NAME").

I shall plunge recklessly on, and, risking a gallic cold shoulder to this humble blog, submit this worthwhile and delicious adaptation for your delight. I hope that neither Tatin sister, Caroline nor Stephanie, would overly object. One can only hope that the Lichonneux Brotherhood tasked with the noble tarts defence are not currently in a position to send assassins.

Gentle mockery aside, it is somewhat inspirational to see such dedication to culinary heritage. One wonders if, with a little more care, Irish smoked salmon, cheddar cheese, and a host of other products would have been more protected against appropriation. Treachery thy name is Kilmeaden......

This recipe, quick, simple, and quite foolproof, is culled from Sophie Grigsons "Vegetables",a simple, straightforward guide to cooking and selecting them. It's a common sense guide for the everyday cook, with some simple, and some complex ideas for preparation. And a snip at €6 in the post Christmas sales. 15 quid on Amazon though.... A no nonsense book. And I mean that in the best way.

For the filling

400g shallots, halved lengthways
85g of unsalted butter
60g of caster sugar
juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

For the pastry

190g of plain flour
85g of unsalted butter (I cubed this for easier mixing)
85g of grated parmesan
2 teaspoons of thyme leaves
grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp of cayenne
1 tsp salt
1 egg

First the pastry. Mix the flour and butter together with your fingertips in a bowl, until the consistency is of fine breadcrumbs. Stir in everything except the egg to this mix. Make a well in the flour, and break the egg into it. Mix the whole lot together with your fingers. The dough will start as a really sticky mix. Mix it until it's soft, but not sticky, adding just enough ice water to bind it. Grigson added 1 tablespoon to hers. I added none - the egg I had was enough.

Wrap in clingfilm, and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180 C.

Grab a ten inch cast iron pan (I used an 8 inch, meaning things were a little packed in), cut your butter into very thin slivers, and lay them on the base. Scatter the sugar, some salt, pepper and the sugar over the butter. Pack the shallots into the pan, flat side down, in circles, one circle inside the other. I found things got a little more chaotic than that in practice. Shallots are not uniform sized things.

Drizzle the shallots with the orange juice and vinegar.

Set the pan over a gentle heat, so the butter bubbles up over the shallots, and keep at a gentle simmer for about 20/25 minutes, to caramelise the sugar. You want the juices to thicken to a thick syrup. Her instructions here were spot on - yielding a juicy, yet still quite set tart, that held it's shape perfectly. Take off the heat.

Roll out your pastry on a lightly floured board, to just larger than the pan rim. I found a circular breadboard of the same size and used that to roll on. Lay the pastry over your tart, tucking the edges down and into the sides of the pan. The tart centre puffed up quite noticeably here. Transfer to the oven until the pastry browns - 25/30 minutes. Slide it out, let it cool for two or three minutes, run a knife around the edges to loosen it, and then cover the pan with a serving dish. Flip the whole lot upside down - it will be very heavy, and you'll hear the tart dropping onto the plate. Any pieces of shallot stuck to the pan can be eased off and put back in to the tatins glazed jigsaw.

Eh voila. Shallot upside down tart. Served up happily to the nosh crazed vegetarians at the Christmas day table. Honour is satisfied. And the Tatin sisters are surely smiling.

The tart also works in pear, tomato (including green tomato), rhubarb, figs, plum, beetroot and a variety of other fruits and vegetables. Beetroot? Beetroot? I think I might have to side with the Brotherhoos od the Tart on that one.
Raspberry Tatin? Thats one to have a bash at. Ditto greenguages and damsons.
Oh, and happy new Year, to anyone persistent enough to get this far.

Recipe notes:

In the pastry, I would use more thyme, and more orange peel. The taste of each was present, but not sufficiently so. Could be an ingredients issue though....

In my 8 inch pan, even with trimming the pastry a little, it was too thick. If I were making it again, I'd make less pastry - maybe 20 per cent less.

The amount of sugar in the pan is entirely in keeping, but the recipe could stand less sugar, and more balsamic and juice. That's purely a personal point - I'd like a more savoury dish.

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