A classic is a delectable French upside-down pastry in which fruit — traditionally apples — is caramelized in butter and sugar before being topped with a crusty layer of puff pastry. This pastry is then baked until golden brown and flipped over before serving to showcase the beautifully glazed and tender apples. Handily, the method that makes tarte tatin a delight to eat with fruit can be cleverly adapted to a range of other ingredients, including savory options. For instance, root vegetables like sweet potatoes and butternut squash make for an exquisite vegetarian variation on the classic French dessert.
These fall and winter vegetables have a sweetness that, when paired with the savory depth of vinegar caramel, herbs, and flaky pastry, create a rich, satisfying dish. In this recipe by , the natural sugars in squash and sweet potatoes caramelize much like apples would, resulting in a complex dish that's flexible enough to serve as an eye-catching main or a robust accompaniment to a larger meal. Whether adorned with sprinkles of goat cheese, accented with aromatic sage, or given a kick with a hint of chili, a vegetable tarte tatin keeps the spirit of the classic alive while providing a canvas for a wide spectrum of flavors and textures.
The main ingredients in this dish are butternut squash and sweet potatoes. You can use one type of potato or a variety, which will lead to a more colorful finished dish; Murray opts for orange potatoes and purple and Japanese sweet potatoes. If you can find it, , a smaller variety of butternut, will fit even better into the spiral design due to its small size.
The base of this tarte tatin is a sweet and savory caramel made from sherry vinegar, sugar, and thyme. Finally, puff pastry crowns the dish with a layer of golden brown crispiness.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Peel the sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, and squash, then use a sharp knife or mandoline to slice them into thin rounds.
In a small saucepan, combine the sherry vinegar, sugar, and thyme sprigs. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.
Let simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the vinegar mixture has reduced and taken on a syrup-like consistency. Once done, remove the thyme sprigs and discard.
Pour the caramel into a springform pan, ensuring it covers the bottom evenly.
Carefully arrange the thinly sliced root vegetables over the caramel in the springform pan. (You can create a pattern or just layer them randomly, as long as you cover the entire surface with a ½ inch-thick layer. You may not use all the vegetable slices.)
Season the vegetable layer with salt.
Lightly dust a clean surface with all-purpose flour. Roll out the thawed puff pastry to ensure it's large enough to cover the top of the springform pan.
Place the pan on top of the dough and trim around the edge to create a circle.
Gently lay the puff pastry over the arranged vegetables, tucking in the edges to form a crust.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove the aluminum foil and continue to bake for another 20 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown and the vegetables are tender.
Remove the tarte from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing the outer ring of the springform pan.
Carefully place a large serving plate over the top of the pan. Holding both the pan and the plate, invert the tarte onto the plate.
Gently remove the base of the springform pan, revealing your caramelized root vegetable tarte tatin.
Slice and serve right away.
Yes, you can prepare this butternut squash and sweet potato tarte tatin in advance, which makes it convenient for entertaining or for preparing a meal with several components. To prep the dish ahead of time, you can roast the sweet potatoes and butternut squash and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. You can also prepare the caramel and lay the puff pastry over the roasted vegetables, then keep the assembled tarte tatin in the fridge for a few hours before baking.
When you're ready to serve, bake the tarte according to the recipe instructions. If it's already been baked and you're reheating it, place the tarte in a preheated oven at a low temperature, around 275 F, until heated through. Covering it with foil can prevent excessive browning. This low and slow reheating method ensures the pastry doesn't burn and the caramel doesn't become too runny, restoring the tarte to its fresh-baked glory. Always remember that the key to a great tarte tatin is the contrast between the tender, flavorful filling and the crisp pastry, so avoid microwaving, which can make the pastry soggy.
A soggy tarte tatin can result from several factors, but the most common is excess moisture in the vegetables or a caramel that's too thin. Sweet potatoes and butternut squash contain a fair amount of water that releases during the cooking process. To prevent sogginess, be cautious not to overdo it with the amount of caramel, as too much liquid can result in a wet pastry. When making the caramel, cook it to a deep amber color before adding the vegetables, as this not only develops flavor but also ensures the sugar syrup has reached the correct stage of caramelization and thickness.
If your tarte comes out soggy after baking, re-crisping it in the oven at a high temperature for a few minutes can help. Remove any excess liquid first, then return the tarte to a hot oven and watch it closely. This can help any remaining moisture evaporate, firming up the pastry. Next time, you might also want to consider using a thicker puff pastry or even preheating the baking tray to help the bottom cook faster, preventing it from becoming soggy.