14.4.13

Carrot Potato Tartin




I got three cookbooks for my birthday this year. My family knows me. 

The loveliest of these books was undoubtdly Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ottolenghi, a native of Israel, is a rising star chef in the UK. His book is full of beautifully photographed vegetarian dishes, ranging in ingredients and complexity. While browsing this book, I learned that dates are the key to a great vegetable stock and how to make homemade polenta. (I really want to make his sweet corn polenta with eggplant sauce)

However, the recipe that I've really been dying to make is this surprise tartin. 

A tartin is traditional french dessert, usually made with apples. You make a carmel sauce, drizzle it over the bottom of the pan, add the apples, and then fold the puff pastry dough over top and bake it.  When you remove the tartin from the oven and flip it over onto a plate, you have a simple, gorgeously caramelized tart. 

Ottolenghi took a savory spin on the tartin by replacing the apples with fingerling potatoes, goat cheese, and homemade sun dried tomatoes. 

My only major alteration to his recipe was the addition of carrots, mostly because when my sister was flipping through the book and saw this recipe she said, "Are those carrots?"

"No, they're potatoes," I said. 

"That sounds good too. I guess I wanted them to be carrots because I REALLY REALLY love carrots."

The more I thought about it, the more I realized the deliciousness potential of carrots in this tartin. I imagined the sweetness of the carrots would pair well with the caramel, provide a slight difference in texture from the potatoes, and contrast nicely with the savory goat cheese.

I was right, but the road to this tartin was not an easy one. 


I didn't have any time to make the tartin early in the week. Thursday night I looked at my weekend schedule and realized that, in typical me fashion, I had over-scheduled myself for this weekend. (Think more than six hours traveling in a car + staying up close to midnight celebrating your mother-in-law's birthday before waking up at 5:00 am to run a half-marathon. I don't know why I do this.)

Anyway, this meant that my only time to go grocery shopping for the needed ingredients was Friday night at 10:45 pm and my only time to make the tartin was between 6 and 8 am on Saturday morning. 

So that's what I did, bleary and struggling yesterday morning. I wish I could blame most of my recipe blunders on lack of sleep, but honestly I was just in a hurry and impatient, two very unfortunate qualities to have when making a complicated recipe for the first time. 

I started by boiling the water and peeling the carrots. I added the carrots and potatoes to the boiling water and then chopped the onions while the olive oil heated up in the pan. While the onions were cooking, I got out the other ingredients and finished packing. When I came back to check on the onions, they were almost burned. Ack. I kept going. 

I removed the carrots from the water added them to the pan with the onions so they could brown a little bit. After all the vegetables were done, I removed them from the heat, drained the potatoes, and cut them into 1-inch discs. 

Then I started on the caramel sauce. The blessed caramel sauce that nearly cost me my sanity. 

Let me give you the play-by-play.

1st attempt: Because I am lazy and I hate doing dishes, I use the same pot I had used to boil the potatoes. The caramel doesn't work.  The butter keeps separating from the sugar. I think there might have been something lingering from the potatoes that is screwing with the caramel process, so I throw it out.

2nd attempt: New pot. Same problem. I am very confused. I try to pour it into the prepared pan, but it clumps together and the butter slides everywhere. I study the recipe and realize it calls for 2 TEASPOONS of butter, not 2 tablespoons.   

3rd attempt: I use the correct amount of butter, but now the mixture is a dense paste. It in no way resembles caramel. I throw it out and begin to get desperate. 

4th attempt: I have the idea of adding a tablespoon of water to the butter and sugar.  This works. However, when I pour it onto the pan, I realize that I forgot to clean out the extra butter from attempt number 2, and the new caramel sauce will not coat the pan because it keeps sliding everywhere. 

5th attempt: I replace the parchment paper lining the pan and use the correct ratio of butter, sugar and water. It works, kind of. 

At this point I was really behind schedule and majorly frazzled. I forgot to sprinkle the fresh oregano over the caramel, but I figured it was no big deal. I layered in the carrots and potatoes and then pushed the sun-dried tomatoes and onions into the cracks. I sprinkled everything with oregano, salt and pepper. At this point it looked like this, and I started to hope it might turn out ok. 


I rolled out the puff pastry sheet into a square slightly larger than the pan and folded it over the vegetables. Look at them all cozy in that pastry blanket. 



 I popped that baby in the oven, set the timer, and hopped in the shower.

It wasn't until I got out of the shower  that I realized I had forgotten about the goat cheese. The rich, creamy, decadent goat cheese that was supposed to mold the vegetables and puff pastry together. The goat cheese that got neglected in my fervent desire to get that dang tartin in the oven.

The words "I am a failure" escaped my lips.  I considered giving up on the whole thing, but a few minutes later when I pulled the tartin out the oven and flipped it over onto a plate it was SO pretty. From the outside, you couldn't tell I had forgotten anything. After taking a few pictures, I had the idea of melting the goat cheese and spreading it over the top of the vegetables. It definitely took away some of the aesthetic appeal, but it worked.


The morals of this story:
  1. Caramel sauce is tricky. Read the ingredients and directions carefully. 
  2. The cheese. Always the cheese. If all else fails, spread it on top.
  3. If you have a stellar recipe with quality ingredients, even an inept cook like myself can't mess it up too much. 
When I did in fact eat the tartin several hours later, I had to admit that all the craziness had been worth it. The caramelized potatoes and carrots are, in fact, to-die-for, and the richness of the sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese puts it over the top. It's not an easy week night supper, but it's a meal that will impress all your guests. (If you're cooking for yourself, you'll be impressed too!)


Carrot Potato Tartin

Ingredients:
¾ cup sundried tomatoes, halved*
2  tbs olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
salt and pepper
1 lb assorted fingerling potatoes (I found one with 1 large purple potato in the mix, which was fun!)
3 large, peeled carrots, but into one inch discs
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 tbs sugar
2 teaspoons (not tablespoons!) butter
1 tbsp water
3 springs fresh oregano
5 oz goat cheese, sliced
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed overnight and rolled thinly into a roughly 10 inch circular shape

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add potatoes and carrots. Set timer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, diced onion and add to olive oil in a medium sauce pan on low heat. Stir occasionally.

After 15 minutes, remove carrots and put into saut√© pan with the onions. Increase heat to medium-high.  Boil potatoes for an additional 10 minutes, and continue to cook the onions and carrots until carrots are slightly browned and soft.

Drain potatoes and let cool for a few minutes. (I ran some cool water over mine to speed this up.) Cut off the top of each potato to create a flat surface and then cut into one-inch thin discs.

Brush a 9-inch cake pan (or a spring-foam pan if you have it) with olive oil and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

In a small pan, add the 2 teaspoons butter, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1 tablespoon water and turn heat on high. Stir mixture constantly. (It will become foamy) As soon as the mixture starts to turn brown, remove from heat and pour immediately onto parchment paper lined pan. Tilt the pan to spread the sugar mixture evenly over the bottom. (If it doesn’t cover evenly, you can use your spoon. )

Lay the potato and carrot slices close together, cut side down, on the bottom of the pan.  Press the onion and sun dried tomatoes into the gaps.  Sprinkle with oregano and plenty of salt and pepper.  Lay the sliced goat cheese evenly over the potatoes and carrots.  Carefully lay the puff pastry over the pan, tucking the edges down around the potatoes and carrots. 

Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, then reduce to 350 and bake for 15 minute or until the puff pastry is slightly golden brown in color.  Remove from the oven and let settle for two minutes only.  Hold an inverted plate firmly on top of the pan and carefully but quickly turn them over together.

*Ottolenghi's original recipe includes directions for how to make your own sun-dried tomatoes. I already had some sun-dried tomatoes lying around, but the process to make your own is easy too. Cut a pint of cherry tomatoes in half. Lay out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 250 for 45 minutes. 


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