Photo by Donna
I guess it's the simplicity of it that makes the tarte tatin so appealing–apples, sugar, a little bit of butter. No seasoning, no spices, a basic pie crust. The flavor and this wonderful deeply red-brown color is achieved through long slow cooking.
The method is simple. Put 3/4 cup sugar in a medium saute pan, spread a few pats of butter on top, then nestle peeled thick wedges of apple into the sugar. Cook slowly, medium low, until much of the water has cooked off, and enough of the apples have cooked down allowing you to add more to the pan, and continue cooking until you can see that the sugar and apple juices have turned into caramel. One to two hours. Lay some pie dough on top, tuck the edges down around the apples and pop it into a hot oven till the crust is nicely browned. While it's still warm, turn it out onto a plate. Let the juices sink down and saturate the crust. Serve with some vanilla ice cream that will melt from the tarts warmth.
A perfect fall dessert.
I'd never made one, but when Clark from across the street said the apples on his tree, which my office looks out on, were particularly good this year, I gathered young James and we collected plenty. They are firm and tart with very pale flesh and proved to be excellent cooking apples. It was Halloween and we had guests coming that evening. I used the recipe in Bouchon as a guide. The apples cooked gently and slowly and scarcely needed attention, only some time. Occasionally, using a spatuala, I'd rotate them in the pan, maintaining their orientation but moving them as a disc to ensure the apples wouldn't stick to the pan when I upended them on a plate.
It was so good, I made it again the next day for some friends whe were coming for dinner the following night. Donna was able to take a quick shot before we served it.
Sugar, apples and a little bit of butter. A wonder.
(David Lebowitz subsequently posted on a quince tart tatin.)