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Carrot Tarte Tatin: Fun take on French dessert

Don’t forget the flaky salt as a finishing touch

By Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Published: March 20, 2024, 6:05am
2 Photos
A savory carrot tarte tatin is paired with a green salad for a simple, and elegant, vegetarian supper.
A savory carrot tarte tatin is paired with a green salad for a simple, and elegant, vegetarian supper. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS) (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) Photo Gallery

Here’s how it often goes at dinner time on weeknights in my kitchen: My husband walks in, and if there’s no discernible aroma wafting across the room, he starts lifting lids on pans on the stovetop and looking in the fridge for leftovers before wondering out loud “What’s for dinner?”

On a recent Monday, the answer was something of a shocker, given his lifelong belief that every nighttime meal should include a starch, a vegetable and some sort of animal protein. In addition to a tender green salad dressed in a tangy, cheesy vinaigrette, there was a entree featuring the hardest working veggie in my refrigerator’s crisper drawer — carrots.

If you’re going to go vegetarian, this is the way to go. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen’s vegetal take on the classic fruit-topped French dessert, Tarte Tatin, is nothing short of spectacular.

Carrots sauteed in butter with a little honey are always delicious, but when you also add a splash of balsamic vinegar, toss in a little goat cheese and tuck them into a tight circle on top of puff pastry, well, they’re something else entirely.

Perelman categorizes the dish as an appetizer, and indeed, cut into thin wedges, the Tarte Tatin would make a lovely finger food for parties. But paired with a salad and a crusty roll, it becomes an even lovelier, veggie-forward casual supper.

I used bunch carrots and a log of fresh goat cheese. Don’t forget the flaky salt as a finishing touch; it really brings out the flavor of the carrots.

The dish is best served warm. If you make it in advance, keep it in the pan and gently rewarm it in the oven before flipping it onto a plate.

Carrot Tarte Tatin With Salad Greens

Serves 4-6. Adapted from “Smitten Kitchen Keepers” by Deb Perelman

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For tart:

1 pound trimmed slim carrots, scrubbed

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons honey

11/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Lots of freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted

2 ounces goat cheese, thinly sliced or torn into bits

Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for garnish

For salad:

1 small garlic clove

1-ounce chunk Parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated

1/2 cup salted pistachios

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard, or more to taste

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 generous handfuls butter lettuce, washed and dried

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9-inch round cake pan with a circle of parchment paper.

Prepare carrots: If carrots are very thin, cut them in half lengthwise. If they’re slightly thicker (more than 1/2 inch) quarter them lengthwise.

In large saute pan, heat butter and honey over medium-high heat until butter is melted and mixture is bubbly. Add carrots, salt, pepper and thyme and toss to coat. Cover with lid, reduce heat to medium and cook 10-12 minutes, or until carrots are mostly cooked through. (While you’re cooking carrots, lift lid occasionally to ensure they’re cooking evenly. If they’re browning in pan, reduce heat slightly.)

With lid off, increase heat, allowing most of the liquid to cook off. Add vinegar and cook 2 more minutes, turning carrots over in sauce as carefully as you can without breaking them. Tip the carrots and juices into the prepared pan. Nudge them around so they evenly cover the bottom.

Assemble tart: on floured counter, roll out puff pastry to a 10-inch round. Scatter goat cheese slices over the carrots in the pan. Top the carrots with pastry, tuck in dough edges all around and cut a vent into the center of the dough.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the pastry is a deep golden color.

While tart is baking, prepare salad. On cutting board, finely chop garlic then add Parmesan and pistachio and continue chopping until mixture is reduced to a breadcrumb-like rubble. Place in small bowl, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In large bowl, whisk together vinegar and mustard. Drizzle in your olive oil in a steady stream, whisking the whole time. Season with salt and pepper. Taste dressing, and add more vinegar or mustard to taste, if needed. Pile lettuce leaves on top, but don’t mix yet.

Remove tart from oven and let rest 10 minutes; then run a knife around the edges and flip onto a plate. Remove parchment paper and scrape any juices left in the pan over the tart. Nudge any wayward carrots back into pace. Garnish the tart with additional thyme leaves, if desired, and flaky salt.

When ready to assemble and serve salad, wash hands well and use them to toss the lettuce with the dressing, evenly coating each leaf.

On serving plate, spread out a layer of dressed leaves. Sprinkle them lightly with pistachio-mixture, and season with salt and pepper. Cut carrot tart into wedges with a serrated knife and serve with the dressed salad.