Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Interstellar Renegades and Cast Iron Cookware

So I learned something about myself since starting this blog. I really enjoy watching Sci-Fi while I bake. I know; I'm baffled by it, too. I think it has something to do with the fact that when I first got big into baking, I coincidentally received Star Trek The Original Series season one on Blu-ray. It goes without saying that I was watching Star Trek more or less non-stop and there just so happened to be baking involved. Now, I have some sort of Pavlovian association between baking and Sci-Fi. Stranger still, it totally doesn't carry over to savory or meal type dishes. Figure that out.

Recently, someone reminded me how much I love the now defunct series Firefly. If you haven't seen it, Netflix it. It is wicked awesome. So, I thought, what could be more appropriate for a Western set in Space than a little cooking with cast iron, right? I said to myself, Self, if I'm ever an interstellar renegade, hopping from third world planet to third world planet, I am sure as shootin' gonna be clinging to my cast iron cookware. You never know when you might need it, for cooking or self defense.

"We're not gonna die. And do you know why? Because we are so very pretty." 

I love tomatoes. I really really do. Fruit, veggie, whatever. I will never get tired of the tomatoes. Tomatoes as a dessert was too darn temptin' to pass up. You mean I can sneak tomatoes into a whole 'nother course? Hot damn! This dessert was a leap of faith, but I was handsomely rewarded. It was sweet and fresh tasting, with a funny kind of dessert pizza feel. Enjoy!

Tomato Tarte Tatin
(Adapted from this August 2010 Bon Appetit recipe)

8 or 9 large roma tomatoes
3 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry dough, thawed, (rolled out, if necessary) and trimmed to a 10" round (to suit the size of your skillet)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Fill a medium saucepan with water and boil. While the water is warming up, cut a shallow X in bottom of each tomato. Blanch tomatoes, a few at a time, until skins begin to peel, about 15 to 30 seconds. Using slotted spoon, transfer blanched tomatoes to a bowl of ice water to cool. Repeat with remaining tomatoes. Peel tomatoes, halve lengthwise, cut out cores and remove seeds. (This step takes a few minutes to do). 

(These tomatoes totally look like the eggs from Alien, don't they?)

Slice butter and spread over the bottom of an ovenproof skillet. My skillet is a 10" cast iron skillet, but any size, give or take an inch should work. Sprinkle sugar evenly over the butter. Arrange tomato halves, rounded side down, bottoms pointing out, in concentric circles.

Warm skillet to medium heat. Cook until sugar and butter are reduced to a deep amber syrup, about 25 minutes. Move tomatoes around occasionally to make sure they aren't burning or sticking.

Meanwhile, tackle the pastry. I used the better part of a 14 oz. frozen pastry sheet, which was a little smaller than the diameter of my skillet.  If you need to roll out your pastry a bit, do so on a lightly floured surface, using a floured rolling pin. Once you have to size you like, cut pastry into a round a little bit bigger than your skillet.

Remove skillet from heat. Pour vanilla extract over tomatoes and transfer pastry round to skillet. It is ok if you're pastry doesn't exactly fit the skillet. If the pastry is larger than your skillet, tuck the extra pastry down with a knife or spatula. Cut a couple of slits in the pastry, and bake until it is deep golden brown, about 20 - 25 minutes. 

Remove from oven and cool in skillet for 10 minutes. While the tart is cooling, mix together confectioner's sugar and cream in a medium bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat together until stiff peaks begin to form. 

Loosen pastry around the edges with a knife or spatula. Place large plate over skillet. Using oven mitts, invert skillet over plate, and give a little shake until you feel the tart drop onto the plate. Carefully lift off the skillet. Rearrange any tomato halves that may have moved. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream.

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