a tatin, auditioned

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Just a few days after returning from our honeymoon, Alex and I celebrated our two-year dating anniversary — which just seems now the most precious thing, celebrating ever teensy weensy moment that passes; oh, how married we’ve become — by going to DB Bistro for dinner. Though I never thought we could have a bad time anywhere, we really, really did not enjoy the meal; the waiter rushed us, I could have sworn one made a face when I opted for two appetizers and a side instead of an entrée, we were squeezed in like sardines next to possibly the most annoying female half of a couple, ever, and oh, a plate was whisked away from me before I was done. Meh! A few days later, I did something I had not done before or since, and wielded my mighty pen, drafting off a full-paged To Whom It May Concern, expressing as diplomatically as I could that I think we are the least fussy diners, ever, but were still sorely disappointed. Two days later, the manager called me, personally apologizing and inviting us back for a free champagne cocktail or some such; a few days after that, a signed letter from Mr. Boulud arrived backing up this offer. Very gracious, indeed, though I can’t say we’ve ever taken them up on this.

Onwards! I’d completely forgotten about this meal until browsing Eat and then Lobstersquad a couple days ago, both of whom had made tomato tarte tatins, something I’d ordered and absolutely loved at DB that night, and had sworn I’d try my hand at one day. Ignoring the fact that it is presently the opposite of tomato season and also that I’ve never made a classic tarte tatin before (though I will, very soon), I decided to follow my intuition (always a scary thing) and make what I approximated to be a similar version of it. Charmed by both the stellar quality of the canned, whole and utterly flawless San Marzano tomatoes we’ve had the luck to bring home lately, as well as the roasting-toasting step in the tomato soup I made a while back to bring out their flavor, I opted for the canned variety. Discarding their innards as gently as I could, I cooked them on the stove for a good 20 minutes in a big pat of butter with a pinch of sugar and a much larger one of salt, cooking off a lot of their liquid, then covered them with sliced coins of chèvre and a round of puffed pastry. Following Molly’s wonderful tatin instructions, I baked it for about 45 minutes until puffy and golden, inverting it a few minutes later on a plate.

The results were surprisingly lovely, as was the flavor. (By this point, I’d convinced myself the recipe was doomed, the tomatoes would burn and thread themselves to the cast iron, and remain eternally uncooked — does anyone else do this when they cook? Terrible, terrible.) Still, they had gathered none of the blistered and charred spots I’d hoped for, and I have no doubt I have no doubt this might work better with fresh tomatoes, like some goofy-looking heirlooms. But then I started thinking that if I am going to make a puffed pastry, chevre and heirloom tomato tart, I might as well do it right-side-up, in a method that never fails, and with that, I believe I accidentally talked myself out of trying this again. Still, we will enjoy the leftovers, and for me personally, the knowledge that I worked my way through a whim of a recipe beginning to end has brought me no uncertain satisfaction.

As have these two things:

  • The other night, I read Rose Levy Berenbaum applaud the arrival of her 2-quart Lodge cast iron pot and I had the most embarrassing revelation: I own one of those! I’d bought it a couple years ago and never used it (shame on me), forgotten about it and even had the nerve to put a 9″ cast iron pan on my “need to get” list. Sure, it’s a little deeper than a skillet and a whole inch narrower than I’d wanted, but it will more than do. In addition, it will make us the most lovely 2-person stews, roasts and soups, which is what I believe drew me to it in the first place.
  • Would you believe I have never used puffed pastry before, ever, before last night? Honestly, I was both intimidated by it as well as failing to see puffed pastry’s charm. Well, I have been converted and it is all due to DuFour, which (locally, to boot) makes a puffed pastry so wonderful, it smells like buttery-rich shortbread in your kitchen as soon as you open the package, and is so easy to use, I have only further proved how ridiculous I can be. But more on that tomorrow!

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