Tomato Tarte Tatin
By Sandro Romano
8 large, ripe Roma tomatoes (or you can use beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
¾ cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp fresh thyme, picked
2 sheets (from 2 boxes) frozen Dufour puff pastry, thawed
Preheat the oven to 375°F and bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Using a sharp paring knife, cut a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato. Drop the tomatoes in the boiling water and blanch them for ten seconds, or until you see the skin around the cuts begin to peel back.
Remove the tomatoes from the water with a slotted spoon or a spider and plunge them into ice water to shock them and loosen their skins. Gently remove the skins from the tomatoes and cut each tomato into half.
Set a heavy 9-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter to the pan and swirl it around as it melts to completely coat the bottom of the pan.
Sprinkle the sugar evenly into the bottom of the skillet, then add the salt, pepper, vinegar, and thyme.
Remove from the heat and arrange the tomatoes in the bottom of the pan, making sure that the rounded sides face down. Fit them snugly together with so that there’s little room between them—they will shrink as they cook.
Put the pan back on the heat and let the tomatoes cook for 8–10 minutes, until their juices have begun to run and combine with the caramelizing sugar.
Using a fork, occasionally lift the tomatoes to make sure that the juices mix well with the sugar and that there are no dry spots in the pan and that the juices aren’t catching and burning.
Unfold the two sheets of puff pastry and lay them side by side on a clean counter, making sure that their edges overlap so that they form one large sheet.
Using another skillet or cake tin, cut out a 10-inch circle from the two sheets of pastry.
Remove the pan from the heat and cover the tomatoes with the circle of pastry dough. Quickly and gently tuck in the edges of the pastry so that it reaches down to the bottom of the pan, enclosing the tomatoes.
Cut a few narrow steam vents in the crust to let any extra liquid from the cooking tomatoes escape.
Place the skillet on a baking sheet. Next, take an oven-safe cooling rack and place it on top of the skillet. This will prevent the puff pastry from rising unevenly.
Place the baking sheet with the skillet and the baking rack into the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden and crisp and the juices bubbling around the edges of the pan are thick, golden, and bubbly.
Remove the cooling rack and let the tarte cool for about 10 minutes before trying to unmold it. Do not let it cool completely however, or the sugar at the bottom of the pan will harden and make it almost impossible to get out.
To unmold, first place a large plate over the skillet—you want to make sure that it’s at least an inch larger around than the skillet itself.
Using two thick kitchen towels (or oven mitts if you have them), grip the pan and the plate together on two sides and quickly and confidently flip it over, away from you. It’s imperative that you do this away from you and without hesitation. The danger with unmolding the tarte is that the runny caramel can spill out of the pan and burn you. But proceed confidently and without rushing and it should flip without a hitch.
Tap the inverted skillet gently to make sure that all the tomatoes come out of the pan, and then remove. If, despite your best efforts one or two tomatoes have stayed in the pan, don’t worry: this is easily fixed. Using a large spoon (remember the caramel may still be quite hot), pick up the tomato and place it back on the tarte, nudging it back into position.
Serve warm or at room temperature, with a drizzle of fine extra virgin olive oil and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. The tarte makes an ideal summer meal with a salad of green lettuce and goat cheese.