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tomato tarte tatin (adapted from Barbara Lynch's Stir)

And so we wait for tomatoes. Somewhat patiently. Mostly not so patiently. And with a good bit of dread.

Tomato plants and I would not be featured on one of those sites. We'd be the couple that really wants to like each other. We'd want the same future together. We'd try really, really hard to make it work. And then some worm comes along right before the first blossom opens and devours the stem and leaves, and the tomato plant dies a slow, horrible death. This has happened three years in a row.

And so we wait again. Hoping to break the cycle of shattered hopes and death monger worms. Hoping the fruits of our labor are red and juicy with just the right amount of acidity.

Fortunately, we live in New Jersey where the tomatoes are a source of pride. Our local farmer's market has insanely large, heavy heirlooms in mid-July, and if we go toward closing time, the stand owners push their heirlooms on us for free, seeing in us that we will treat their tomatoes with love and care and a bit of sea salt. Because farmer market heirloom tomatoes won't keep until tomorrow. Eat them now or just forget it.

And so we wait for July. And it's still May. 

Between our Quixotic tomato windmills and our farmer's market, we will have our red. Eventually. 

This recipe will be better in July. But it's perfect right now. Yes, it's from Barbara Lynch. Yes, we're a little obsessed with her. But it tastes so good, so it can't be wrong.

Let's break down the recipe into components, shall we? 

You must make this over a couple of days. Don't do it in one day. You can do it in one day, of course, but that would mean you have too much time on your hands, and you should come over to our house and change diapers or something. Eric Ripert can't do it all by himself.

So. Tomatoes get slow roasted. Onions get slow cooked for an hour. Puff pastry get slapped on top. You bake. You fry some basil leaves. You dollop the mascarpone. You eat and are happy.

This isn't hard. 

But it takes time. Maybe a day or two. So break it down into the components above, and don't think you can't do this. 

Also, there are some of you who don't eat mustard or live with people who don't consume it. I don't want to take your inventory or anything, but try this. Overcome your fear/aversion and get on it. This is tasty and sweet and savory and you need the mustard integrated in it. Try it. Just try it. Thank you.

Karen made this the other night while I was spastic with work. It was glorious. And so is she.

recipe | tomato tarte tatin with tomato confit, slow cooked mustard onions, puff pastry and mascarpone

for the tomato confit
  • 3.5 pounds plum tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 T sugar (especially in May)
  • 2 t kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 c olive oil
  • 6 thyme sprigs
Heat oven to 300 F. Quarter tomatoes lengthwise. Seed and core them.

Get two 9X13 pans (baking sheets are fine). Spread the garlic between them. Divide the tomatoes between them, placing them cut side up. Sprinkle with sugar. Salt and pepper. Pour oil evenly over tomatoes. Bake 27 minutes or so. Cool the tomatoes completely. Use a slotted spoon and transfer the tomatoes to a container to refrigerate them. Keep the oil and use it in a pasta. Or something. Don't throw it away. You're a better person than that. 

for the onions
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves sliced thinly
  • 4 t whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 4 basil leaves chopped
  • 8 basil leaves left whole
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry
  • some honey
  • 1 egg, beaten viciously
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • Some mascarpone. One of those little tubs is fine. This isn't optional. You need this.

Also, you'll need small tart pans or ramekins. Ours are about 3.5 inches in diameter. You use what ever you have. Small bowls. Cups. Whatever. Just make sure they're ceramic or metal. Not plastic, right? Right.

Olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and immediately decrease the heat to low and stir. Do not let these brown. Cook them for an hour. I'm not kidding. Just stir them occasionally. Do not hurry them. You are missing the point if you turn up the heat to medium. Leave it low and have a drink. Or five. About half-way through, remove the puff pastry so it can defrost some. When the onions are caramelized, turn off the heat and add the mustard and chopped basil. Add 1/2 t of salt and some pepper. Taste. We needed more salt. 

Flour a work surface and roll out the puff pastry to about 1/8 inch thick. Get your tart pan/ramekin and a sharp knife. Place the pan on the puff pastry and cut around it with the knife. It will feel slightly like a second grade craft project. Enjoy the memories. Put the pastry cutouts on a plate and put it in the fridge. Keep it cold or it won't puff.

Heat the oven to 375 F.

Take some honey and give the bottoms of the pan a light coating. It's ok if you get it on the sides. Whatever.

Cover the bottom of the pans with some tomatoes, skin side up. Then layer on some onion mixture. Then slap on a puff pastry top. Brush some egg on there. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until brown, between 10-30 minutes. I know that's a big spread, but we made these twice and each time took a different amount of time. Pull them out and let them cool for 10 minutes (no longer or the honey starts to set). 

Heat up the oil in a small pan until a dipped basil leaf sizzles. Place the remaining leaves in the oil until crisp. Maybe a minute or less. Drain on a paper towel.

Run a knife around the inside of the pans. Put a plate on top of the pan, and using a hot pad, hold the pan against the plate and flip them over together.

Garnish the tomato top with a dollop of mascarpone. Stick a bail leaf on there in some artsy way that makes you feel good.


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Reader Comments (9)

This looks amazing. I'll overcome my fear of mustard when my friend who likes tomatoes comes over.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjen

@jen - I thought of you in particular with this one. It's worth a try.

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterC Thornton

there are no better tomatoes on the face of the earth than Jersey tomatoes...we wait all year to be able to eat real tomatoes for 4 months if were lucky...sigh.....I am patiently waiting as well...when they do come in I may have to try your great tatin recipe!
thanks for sharing

June 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChef Dennis

@Chef Dennis - I'm finding the wait impossible. I know it's worth it, but...

In the meantime, I'm loving your site. Especially the pies. So much pie. Perfect. (go visit, everyone)

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterC Thornton

I am in Virginia waiting for Hannover (big heirloom) Tomatoes and I am definately making this tart. Amazing.

June 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpolwig

I join you in tapping my toes, waiting for the tomatoes to ripen. We in rural Indiana imagine the tomatoes, and long for them, when planting our gardens. So we plant 23 of them. That's right. Twenty. Three. In August we will wonder why we did so.

June 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeanna Beth

Gorgeous photo and tasty recipe. Can't wait to try it.

July 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterthe constant hunger

This looks absolutely terrific!

August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiz the Chef

GASP! SO beautiful. So not pitiful.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTHE Tough Cookie

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