Eric Akis: Go topsy-turvy with Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin

Eric Akis

If you follow this column, you will know I have a thing for summer tomatoes baked in pastry. A few years ago, that led me to create a recipe in which ripe, various coloured ones were cut into wedges and baked in a tart with Swiss cheese, onions and niçoise olives.

Last summer, I made a recipe for cherry tomato galette, a free-form kind of tart that I also filled with a ricotta-cheese mixture and accented with fresh oregano.

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This year, I went topsy-turvy and baked my tomato-filled pastry upside down, making a savoury version of tarte tatin.

Tarte tatin is famous French-style dessert where, traditionally, fruit — usually pieces of apple — is set in a pan with a butter-sugar mixture and topped with pastry. The tarte tatin is then baked and, when ready, inverted onto a serving dish. The fruit, once below the pastry, now attractively sits on top.

Tarte tatin is named after the French inn it was invented at in the 1880s, the Hotel Tatin.

In my savoury version of the tarte, I replaced the apples with different coloured cherry tomatoes that I left whole.

Before setting the tomatoes in the pan on melted butter flavoured with honey, which balanced the tomatoes’ acidity, I poked a few small holes in each one with a pairing knife.

Doing that ensured the tomatoes would not expand and split when cooked in the hot oven.

I topped the tomatoes with caramelized onions and, to balance their sweetness and that of the honey, I mixed balsamic vinegar into them, which also added a nice flavour.

My next steps were to top the tomatoes and onions with puff pastry, bake my savoury tarte tatin and then let it rest and set a while before inverting it on to a serving board.

You could serve the cherry tomato tarte tatin warm or at room temperature. If you choose the latter, you could make the tarte an hour or so before serving it. For added flavour, just before serving, the tarte is topped with some tangy, crumbled goat cheese and aromatic fresh thyme leaves

For a nice summer meal, serve the tarte with a mixed green salad, made with local baby lettuces.

 

Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin

In-season, local cherry tomatoes, caramelized onions, puff pastry, goat cheese and fresh thyme combine in this tasty, savoury version of the famous French-style tarte.

 

Preparation time: 40 minutes, plus resting time

Cooking time: About 40 minutes

Makes: Four to six servings

 

2 Tbsp butter (divided)

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 medium white or red onion, halved and thinly sliced

• flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 Tbsp honey

36 to 40 assorted coloured cherry tomatoes, or enough to fill the bottom of the skillet in a single layer with a bit of room around the edges (see Note 1)

1/3 cup crumbled soft goat cheese, or to taste

1 (10-inch) square piece frozen rolled puff pastry, thawed (see Note 2)

• fresh thyme leaves, to taste (see Eric’s options)

 

Set a 10-inch cast iron or other ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp of the butter and the oil. When the butter has melted, add the onions and season with salt and pepper.

Cook and stir onions until tender, rich golden, sticky and caramelized, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and garlic to the onions and cook and stir one minute more. Remove skillet from the heat, transfer onions to a plate and cool to room temperature.

When onions have cooled, preheat the oven to 425 F. Set the skillet you cooked the onions in back over medium heat and add the remaining 1 Tbsp butter and the honey. Mix and heat just until the butter melts. Set skillet on a work surface and let sit five minutes.

Poke a few holes in each cherry tomato, and then set them in a single layer in the skillet, leaving a bit of room around the edges to tuck the pastry in. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper, and then evenly top them with the caramelized onions.

Trim and round off the edges of the square of puff pastry a little so it’s more of a 10-inch round/oval shape. Lay the pastry over the tomatoes and onions in the skillet. Now tuck any excess pastry down and around the outside edges of the tomatoes.

Bake the cherry tomato tarte tatin in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and rich golden. Remove skillet from the oven and let tarte rest 20 minutes.

To unmould, work a paring knife around the edges of the pastry to loosen it from the sides of the pan. Place a serving board over the skillet (see Eric’s options). Hold skillet and board firmly together and then quickly invert, to release the tarte onto board.

Serve the cherry tomato tarte tatin warm or a room temperature, topped with the crumbled goat cheese and thyme leaves.

Note 1: Choose cherry tomatoes that are ripe, but still firm. If too ripe and soft, they will release too much juice and make the tarte tatin overly wet.

Note 2: I used Tenderflake brand rolled puff pastry in this recipe. It’s sold at most supermarkets and a 500-gram box contains two individually wrapped rolled pieces of puff pastry. You will only need one for this recipe. Keep the other frozen for another use. Once the pastry has thawed, keep it in the refrigerator until needed. It will puff better if cold.

Eric’s options: Instead of thyme, you could top the tarte with another type of fresh herb, such as sliced basil leaves or whole oregano leaves. Instead of a board, you could also invert the tarte unto a round serving platter.

 

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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