My brain is currently in Paris, idling in a cafe after a bike ride along the Seine. It may not come home. It started a few weeks ago, when an obsession with getting to the bottom of a baked spinach dish mentioned in a letter by Julia Child allowed me to, once again, dive deeply into the pages of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What I didn’t have was an exit strategy, which is especially dangerous when day to day life lately has been a bit more about
double ear infections, sleep deprivation, cookbooking in a tiny, overheated kitchen, oh, and then we paid taxes things nobody needs to hear me complain about. In short: I choose Paris, instead. So the last few weeks have brought to our table weeknight roasted chicken, tiny gold potatoes, simple green salads, skinny green beans, white wine, weepingly delicious onion soup and a spate of apple tarte tatins.
The tarte tatin is one of my favorite apple desserts, but also one of my most consistent failures. Again and again over the years, I’ve tried to get it right but rarely did. Some were too sweet. Often, the apples didn’t cook through. I burnt the caramel more times than I’ll admit to, even in the last week. I’ve cut the apples all wrong. I’ve used puff pastry that didn’t want to puff and short crusts that crumbled under the caramelized apple juices. And a good lot of the time, the caramel just never came together, and remained a toasty syrup with a puddle of butter floating on top. Not that anyone complains about such things. More or less, if there’s a place where you can mess up a tarte tatin, I’ve done it. Multiple times.