Wow, so, it's been an awfully long time. When Andrew and I got engaged, I dropped blogging to make room in the schedule for wedding planning. I didn't drop cooking, though; and in fact, when I cooked especially delicious things, I felt kind of anxious about the fact that I wouldn't be able to take their picture and write them up. I was afraid I would forget. Now that we're an old married couple, I'll start again, I think, and I'll do it tonight instead of waiting for the perfect moment that never comes.
I was moved to action in part by The Art of Simple Food, which arrived on my doorstep yesterday. It is so lovely, to look at and to read, that I had to cook from it immediately. Last night was braised chicken legs; tonight, tarte tatin, something I have never eaten before but have always, always wanted to make--caramel! apples! crust!
I had enough dough for an 11 inch buttery crust in the freezer--Ina Garten's crostata dough, which I thought would do--and last weekend at the Greenmarket Andrew had thoughtfully bought twice as many apples as he was supposed to. Because I'm a slow worker, it took me 35 minutes just to peel and core the apples. The finished product was lovely to look at (um...in a rustic sort of way; my camera battery is dead and the charger is nowhere to be found, so lucky for me I will not have to substantiate this claim with a photo). It tasted straightforward and not supersweet; I liked it (and Andrew did, too, to my surprise...I didn't think it would be his kind of thing), but I guess I was expecting the caramel to be thick and sticky. Instead, it seemed to have gone liquid, softening the apples and suffusing them with flavor. Next time I would try to get the caramel a little closer to burnt, I think, or add a more generous pinch of salt; mine was very dark but could have used more flavor. I would also use firmer apples, as suggested.
Still...I am very excited about this book, which is the book I've been waiting for: everyday food from Alice Waters.
-Roll out sweet tart crust into an 11 inch round. Refrigerate until ready to use.
-Peel, core, and quarter 3.5 pounds apples. I used Macoun and Cortland instead of the recommended Granny Smith. Don't worry if they start to brown...the caramel will turn them completely brown in the end anyway. Preheat the oven to 400.
-In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, combine 2 tbs butter and 6 tbs sugar. (Recipe called for a 9 inch skillet, but I used my 12 inch because that's what I have. It seemed to work fine, and in fact, I was not able to fit 3.25 pounds of apples into my 12 inch skillet.) Swirl and stir the butter and sugar until you have a bubbly, dark brown caramel. You want it to get as dark as it can without burning. When it has reached that point, remove it to a rack to cool while you further slice the apples. I gave my caramel a very very scant sprinkle of fleur de sel at this point and would use a little more next time.
-While the caramel cools, halve the apple quarters lengthwise. Arrange them, round side down and wedge pointing up, in two concentric circles in the caramel skillet. Then fill in the spaces between the apples with apple wedges pointing down.
-Lay the dough on top of the apples, tucking it between them and the skillet. Make 5 little slits in the dough with a knife, so steam can escape. Bake 35-40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
-Let rest 5 minutes on a rack, then invert onto a plate. We did not have whipped cream, but I wish we had, or maybe some cinnamon ice cream.