Deb Perelman’s Carrot Tarte Tatin
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A tarte tatin is a French pastry, traditionally made with apples, that involves flipping a flaky slab of puffy pastry out of a skillet to reveal the buttery, caramelized topping. In her new cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Keepers, Deb Perelman has simultaneously crafted a savory carrot tarte tatin, and made the classic French dish much less intimidating than it sounds.
“I know it sounds finicky,” she writes. “If you’re picturing melting sugar on the stove until it reaches an exact temperature, stop right there. This one is as easy as sautéing carrots in all of the things that make sautéed carrots delicious—butter, salt, pepper, thyme, balsamic vinegar and a little honey. They’ll be good enough to eat right from the pan. But covering them with a little goat cheese and a round of prepared puff pastry and popping this into the oven to cook the pastry, and then flipping it back over, is such a flex, such a stunner, it turns cooked carrots into something magnificent, and I think we deserve magnificence.”
From Smitten Kitchen Keepers: New Classics for Your Forever Files by Deb Perelman. Copyright © 2022 by Deb Perelman. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
1 pound (455g) trimmed slim carrots, multicolored if you can find them, scrubbed
3 tablespoons (45g) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (40g) honey
1½ teaspoons (4g) kosher salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
3 tablespoons (45g) balsamic vinegar
1 sheet puff pastry (see note), defrosted in fridge overnight
2 ounces (55g) goat cheese from a log, thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt
1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a 9-inch round cake pan with a circle of parchment paper.
2. Prepare the carrots: If your carrots are very thin (½ inch or less across at the top), cut them in half lengthwise. If they’re slightly thicker (more than ½ inch), quarter them lengthwise.
3. In a large sauté pan, heat the butter and honey together over medium-high heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is bubbly. Add the carrots, salt, pepper and thyme, and toss to coat. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the carrots are mostly cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Insert the tip of a knife into the thick end of a few carrots; you’re looking for a little tightness/resistance, but no crunch. While you’re cooking the carrots, occasionally lift the lid to stir and ensure they’re cooking evenly. If they’re browning in the pan, reduce the heat a little.
4. With the lid off, increase the heat, allowing most of the liquid to cook off. Add the vinegar, and cook, turning the carrots over in the sauce as carefully as you can without breaking them, until a small syrupy puddle remains, about 2 minutes more. Tip the carrots and all the pan juices into the prepared cake pan. Nudge them around so they evenly cover the bottom.
5. Assemble the tart: On a floured counter, roll out the puff pastry to a 10-inch round. Scatter goat cheese slices over the carrots in the pan. Top the carrots with the pastry, tuck in the dough edges all around and cut a vent in the center of the dough. Bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. (I find a deep color essential for puff pastry that won’t fully flatten once flipped.)
6. Remove the tart from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes; then run a knife around the edges and flip it out onto a plate. Remove the parchment paper if it’s stuck to the carrots, and scrape any juices left in the pan over the tart. Nudge any wayward carrots back into place. Garnish the tart with additional thyme leaves and flaky salt. Cut into wedges with a serrated knife and serve.
For aesthetics, I use rainbow carrots, and am grateful they’ve become so readily available in the last few years, but of course single-color carrots work here, too, just as well. The carrot bundles can range a lot in size, since they’re often weighed with giant fronds attached. You might need two or even three bundles.
If you are feeding anyone who doesn’t like goat cheese—something I’m familiar with—leave it out of the tart, and serve it on the side for those who like it to add on top.
Most puff pastry comes as a single sheet in either 12-or 14-ounce (340 or 400g) packages. Some comes in a larger package (17.3-ounce) but will include two sheets; you only need one here. If you can find one that’s all-butter, you will taste the difference.
Do ahead: This tart is best warm. If you’re making it in advance, leave it in the baking pan and gently rewarm it in the oven before flipping it onto a plate.