We are so happy to welcome our first guest post by the talented Elizabeth Baer of CulinUrsa, who helped us with recipe testing for The Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook. A Latin teacher by day, Liz is also a cookbook editor, advisor, and friend. Here she shares a flavorful recipe for tartes tatin with roasted beets and caramel (yes you can!).
Beets, A Love Story
by Elizabeth Baer
I love beets. Pretty much any way you make them, I’ll eat them—especially roasted beets. But so many people I know detest them. Whenever I hear that, I take it as a personal challenge to change their minds. My husband, for example, used to think he didn’t like beets, but then I started making beet risotto with gorgonzola, and now he’s a fan! (Check out my blog post for that recipe.)
While testing recipes for The Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook, I was beyond delighted to be assigned the Tartes Tatin with Roasted Beets from Le Cordon Bleu-trained Peter Platt, chef and co-owner with his wife Meredith Kennard of the lovely Old Inn On The Green, in New Marlborough, MA. The couple purchased the property in 2005—he had been the executive chef for three years prior—with a commitment to farm-to-table dining. (Peter’s recipe for Pan-Seared Massachusetts Striped Bass is included in the cookbook, and worth the purchase price alone!)
This recipe is a wonderful way to use the beets in your CSA or farm-stand haul come summer—and from the supermarket in the meantime, if you have to go out to do any shopping. The roots keep well, so buy a bunch.
The tartes are also an excellent reason to keep a steady supply of frozen puff pastry on hand.
And while they are best served fresh from the oven, I can attest to the fact that the tartes are still good after being in the refrigerator for a a day or two—not as good, but still delicious. I happily warmed them gently in the microwave for a workday lunch.
This is not the simplest recipe, to be sure—working with caramel can be tricky. But the payoff is worth every effort. Plus practicing the art of caramel has its own immediate rewards, and you can pat yourself on the back for accomplishing it. (Once mastered, you’ll find plenty of ways to put your caramel-making skills to use: caramel apples and caramel cake among them.)
A few caramel tips:
- Caramel is extremely hot and dangerous, so handle carefully.
- The whisk should be moving at an even, steady pace, but not so quickly as to slosh liquid in the pan.
- Try to avoid extreme changes in heat and cold; this can “shock” the caramel as it is cooking and cause it to break (meaning the fat from the butter starts to separate out of the caramel).
- If the caramel starts to break, take the saucepan off of the heat and keep whisking until the caramel comes together and is smooth again.
- Keep the heat steady underneath the saucepan, and be ready to remove the pan from the heat at the right moment to whisk more.
- Caramel can scorch easily and develop a bitter, burned flavor, so be sure to remove from the heat before it gets too dark.
- A digital or candy thermometer is helpful if available so you can be precise in gauging when the caramel is ready to be pulled from the heat (at 330°F).
More Testing Notes
I tried this recipe with various ramekins as I didn’t have a matched set of 12. Shallow ramekins were the easiest to flip when removing the baked tartes, but use what you have.
Feel free to play around with the types of beets too. As I had to test this recipe a few times, I once made them with a combination of red and golden beets, which made for some great photos!
Tartes Tatin with Roasted Beets
Serves 12 as an appetizer
The hot, sweet caramel and earthy warmth of the roasted beets play off against the cool goat cheese in this striking appetizer, adapted from Chef Peter Platt of The Old Inn on the Green, New Marlborough, MA. The beets can be roasted and the herbed goat cheese prepared a day or two ahead and refrigerated in separate covered containers. Be sure to work carefully with the caramel as it is very hot; read through the tips above before you begin.
3 to 4 large beets (about 1 3/4 pounds), washed and trimmed
1 cup fresh goat cheese (about 8 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced chives
1 1/2 teaspoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus more for the pans
1 package (about 18 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wrap the beets in foil and place on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan. Roast in the oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the beets can be pierced easily with a fork. Allow to cool until they can be handled comfortably. Peel by rubbing with a paper towel, using a small knife on stubborn spots as needed, then set the roasted beets aside.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the goat cheese until soft. Add the chives, parsley, and olive oil, and beat to combine. Set aside.
3. Lightly butter 12 ramekins (4-inch diameter) and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.
4. To make the caramel (see tips above), combine the sugar and butter pieces in a saucepan with a heavy bottom to ensure even heat distribution and consistent melting. Cook over medium heat, whisking steadily. The mixture will pass through a stage resembling hot slush, then a bubbly, rope-looking stage when it may pull away from the sides of the saucepan, then a stage with more resistance in the whisk as the caramel will begin to form. Remove the saucepan from the heat at roughly 330°F, or as soon as the caramel forms. Continue to whisk until caramel is smooth and pours easily. It will still work if some of the fat is not fully incorporated or if the caramel isn’t completely smooth as long as it will pour from the pan.
5. Pour just enough hot caramel into each ramekin to cover the bottom, about 1½ tablespoons each. The caramel will harden very quickly, which is fine. (The recipe may be prepared to this point up to one day in advance.)
6. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Slice roasted beets into ½-inch-thick rounds and trim to fit bottom of the ramekins with only a little room to spare. Place a beet round on top of the caramel in each ramekin. If there are not enough large slices for all the ramekins, trim the remaining pieces to fit together in the rest.
7. Use a round cookie, biscuit cutter, or knife with the rim from an inverted drinking glass as a guide, to cut out rounds of puff pastry that are the same diameter as the ramekins. Lay the rounds of puff pastry directly on top of the beets. There is no need to seal the pastry to the lip of the ramekins.
8. Place the baking sheet with the ramekins in the oven and bake until the pastry is browned, and the caramel is bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes.
9. To serve, place a plate upside down on top of each ramekin and invert each tarte Tatin onto the plate, being careful with the hot caramel. Use a silicone spatula to scrape any extra caramel sauce from the bottom of the ramekin over the top, if desired. Top of each tarte with a dollop of herbed goat cheese and serve immediately.