I am oh so going to date myself... I mean there is old and then there is old... OK I don’t need a walker or Depends... at least not this week... but in this world of 11 year old serial entrepreneur billionaires who went straight from the a preemie incubator into a startup incubator I am supposed to be fossil fuel... and in many ways I am. I am dating myself because I am referring to a magazine from the really early 80s. I speak with deep reverence of “Cuisine.” Back in these olden days magazine wise there was “Gourmet”, “Bon Appetit” and “Cuisine.” “Gourmet” was at the time old fashioned and fussy... prone to recipes for Baked Alaska and Crepes Suzette and restaurant reviews that were more concerned with the quality of the silverware. “Bon Appetit” the current lone survivor of the three was then more of a paean to the miracle of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. And then there was “Cuisine.” In many ways “Cuisine” prefaced the current state of cooking in the USA. It was an extremely well written, researched, designed and photographed publication. Writers for the magazine included such founding mothers of the current food scene as Paula Wolfert, Lynn Rosetta Casper and the late Barbara Tropp. I’ll save a deeper discussion of just how influential this magazine was for a later day but let’s just say that the three primary things that shaped my culinary self were: 1. My Mom’s complete and utter contempt for the kitchen and anything that one might do there. 2. Fong Chong Chinese Restaurant in Portland, Oregon where I ate duck feet much to the amazement of the staff... and 3. "Cuisine"... which every month transported me around the world to make and taste such exotic things as Twice Cooked Pork, Scottish Shortbread, Shrimp Etouffee, Gnocchi, Baeckeoffe... And perhaps the one thing that has sealed my fate as an eternal kitchen wastrel... the now ubiquitous Tart Tatin.
If I have made a one Tart Tatin I have made a thousand. Along with peach or apple cobbler it is my default dessert. Guests like it so much that bloodshed is not uncommon. And who can blame them, it’s simply a crispy, airy, insanely buttery crust topped with 2 to 3 inches of juicy, tart caramelized apples. And it’s not that hard to make... OK there is one sticky spot that can if not executed properly cause 3rd degree burns and a heck of mess to clean up after you get back from the hospital... but don’t worry, we’ll walk you through it. Just let a relative, neighbor or loved one know what you are up to.
OK let’s drag out that old warhorse of a story about the origins of the “Tart Tatin.” You see there once were these 2 French sisters Stephanie and Caroline Tatin who lived in a small village about 100 miles south of Paris called Lamotte Beuvron and one day this on armed vacuum cleaner salesman came by... anyway for whatever reason Stephanie got a little too busy with the one armed vacuum cleaner salesman and left the apples simmering for too long on stove. Merde! The sugar and the butter was burnt, the apples were too brown... Soon Caroline who worked mornings at the draft board would return and would have no problem locking poor Stephanie in with the angry geese who were about to have their engorged livers harvested for foie gras and were not too happy about it. What’s a Tatin sister to do but to cover up the mistake by tossing some dough on it and throwing the whole mess in the oven.
Once the pie had cooked poor Stephanie still was not out of the woods. An apple tart with one crust? On top? Served in a pan? This was not Pizza du Hut this was the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte Beuvron which roughly translates as “where?” At that very moment the one armed vacuum cleaner salesmen who had been smoking a Gauloise Bleu out by the tortured geese pen came in to see what Stephanie thought of his mustache and his remaining bicep which was handily exposed because he had lost his shirt to the rage filled geese. Though her tears Stephanie told the one armed vacuum cleaner salesman about her dilemma... the one armed vacuum cleaner salesman being an every resourceful kinda guy consulted Escoffier and deduced that another crust must be applied to the pie. He instructed Stephanie to take a plate slightly larger than the pie and place it on the pan like a lid. In a rather high and feminine voice he then demanded that she follow his lead and mirror his every movement. Then with his one one good arm and Stephanie’s cooperation he quickly flipped the pie onto the plate. Unfortunately part 2 of the operation was not possible to due to arrival of Caroline’s sputtering Citroen Traction Avant which had been announced by the honking of the soon to be dispatched poultry and the sound of flying gravel. The vacuum salesman was forced to exit through the small bathroom window, The younger Tatin sister was spared quality time with the fat angry geese because there in her hand was the glistening treasure that would become a mainstay of dessert counters round the world... The Tart Tatin... et viola.