Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A very plum, plum. - Plum Tart Tatin

Say it's your last day on earth. And that all those on earth are happy, peaceful and well-cared for. No need for any last minute world peace requests or anything like that. No...let's say you are faced with a choice. Diamond necklace, ownership of the world's fastest and best car, a time-share in Maui, OR, a New York style steak with a good Cabernet. Which would you choose?

Oh come on. That's too easy.

I have that food gene. The one that never forgets a good wine, or a good steak for that matter. I get such a kick out of hearing my Father say the name of the wine he had at The French Laundry, years ago, "Radio-Coteau!" He exclaims. The same inflection, every time, as if he's sharing the world's greatest secret. I inherited that. Something I'm pretty proud of actually.

Because of that, I knew exactly what it was that we tasted last year at Cyrus, when the sommelier poured our wine at Leah's birthday dinner. I knew the sentimental value of what was in my glass before I had even one sip. It was Radio-Coteau! And of course, it would be delicious.

Food and drink are markers on the road map of memory. They're the associations we make with people and place. Taste is a sentimental business. A topic eloquently exhausted by Proust and his Madeline's. But,to find a shared taste sentimentality, now that's something that can really bring people together. Reminiscing over the taste of Cappuccino in Italy, the perfect pint of Guinness in Ireland, or the Mt. Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery...now those are the foundations for everlasting memories and rock-solid bonds.

I would choose the steak and the wine. No question.

There's something about the subtlety of this dessert. Perhaps it's the nutmeg, or maybe the vanilla bean. Of course, it could be the taste of ripe plum on pastry. I can't say what it is, exactly. There's just something about it. Something that makes you remember...remember what? That, I can't say either. I suppose the taste of plum varies for us all.

Plum Tart Tatin
adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, 2007
serves 6

1 cup creme fraiche
1 tsp grated orange peel

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half a package) thawed

2 1/4 lbs firm red plums, pitted and halved
2 tbsp plus 2/3 cup of sugar, divided
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

Pre-heat oven to 400. Whisk creme fraiche and orange zest together in a small bowl. Cover and chill. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface or silpat. Trim the corners to create a circle.
Place on a plate.

Mix plums, lemon juice, peel, sugar, nutmeg and seeds from vanilla bean together in a large bowl. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Melt the butter in an ovenproof 9 inch diameter skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle remaining 2/3 cup sugar evenly over the butter. Tightly arrange the plums in concentric circles, cut side up, in the skillet. Drizzle juices at the bottom of the bowl over the top of the plums. Cook over medium heat, shaking from time to time to prevent the plums from sticking. Continue cooking until the syrup turns deep red, pressing plums slightly to create a compact layer, about 35 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Slide the crust atop of the plums in the skillet. Press the crust edges down around the plums at the edge of the skillet. Cut several slits in the top of the dough to let the steam escape. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool the tart completely in the skillet.

When cool, place a large platter or plate over the skillet and invert, allowing the tart to settle onto the plate. Slowly lift off the skillet. Let stand for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. Serve with the orange creme fraiche.

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