Tarte tatin doesn’t have to be made of pommes (aka apples). It can also be made with pommes de terre (aka spuds). Here’s a wicked recipe from Geoffroy Vieljeux, erstwhile host at one of the world’s most stylish B&Bs, Mas Parasol near Uzés, now sadly no longer functioning.
We’re talking an upside-down potato tart here. For this you need a bunch of firm, waxy potatoes, a cake tin, olive oil and a salty dough a bit like Salzteig. You arrange said potatoes in said cake tin, drizzle with olive oil, cover with the salty dough and bake. And here’s where we veer away a bit from the real Tarte Tatin, for the crust is completely inedible. Its sole purpose is to imprison all the goodness and flavour of the potatoes beneath and to season them gently the while. When the tatin is ready, you turn it out to reveal the by-now-gently-golden spuds, sitting up and begging to be speared with a fork. Here’s how:
First the potatoes. These can be new, freshly dug and scrubbed clean (for more ideas for super newper recipes, see my recent piece on Zester). Or outside the new potato season you could use a variety like rattes. Whatever…you need spuds that hold their shape and don’t need peeling, not too huge (baking potatoes please abstain) and roughly the same size/shape, so they look pretty when you turn the tatin out.
Then you need a baking tin/pan – don’t use a springform tin, or olive oil may leak out during the baking and make a lot of sound and fury, not to mention a frightful mess in your oven. Line the tin with baking paper, oil the inside and arrange your scrubbed potatoes in it tightly in a nice flower formation (allow 3-4 per person, but be warned: folks have been known to eat more – these are seriously moreish) . Drizzle with oil.
Next comes the crust, which you make by mixing together equal quantities of flour and coarse salt and adding egg white(s) and enough water to bring the whole thing together into some semblance of order. For a huge pan measuring 30cm across, you’ll need 400g flour + 400g coarse salt + 2 egg whites + ca. 200ml warm water; for a smaller, 22 cm-diameter tin you’ll need half those quantities. Mix the flour and salt together in a big bowl, make a well in the centre, add the egg white(s) and enough water to give a firm dough, not too dry, not too wet. You need to be able to (and must) turn it out onto a floured board, squash it into a ball and then roll it out thickly to the size of your tin. Lay it on top of the potatoes and tuck it in snugly – you don’t want any hanging out of the tin or you’ll be in bother when it comes to inverting the tatin for serving.
Heat the oven to 200 C and bake the tatin for an hour to an hour and a quarter, or until the crust is golden brown and you can hear the potatoes making reassuring, sizzling noises beneath. If you run over the time by another fifteen minutes, no problem. For a longer wait, just leave the finished tatin in the turned-off oven.
Now comes the fun bit. Take a plate big enough to cover the tin comfortably and equip yourself with good oven gloves. Assemble your guests. Invert the plate over the tin, take a deep breath and turn the tatin out onto the plate. Tada! Pretty good, huh? (and now go and do your own, and get ready to take a bow…)
I always feel kind of sad that you can’t eat the crust (impossibly salty) – it’s but a husk that has now completed its task and is no longer useful. Say goodbye and consign it to the bin.