Our Cookbook of the Month celebrates one of the great chefs of our time--Jacques Pepin! Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food honors Pepin's 60 years in the kitchen with the best recipes.

BookPage cookbook columnist Sybil Pratt had only good things to say: "From golden oldies to the here-and-now, from the classic French to the all-American, everything in Jacques’ repertoire carries his unique stamp and approach—unpretentious yet elegant, pragmatic yet sophisticated."

The following recipe is exactly that:

Tarte Tatin


Serves 8 to 10

Tarte Tatin, the famous upside-down caramelized apple tart created many years ago by the two Tatin sisters, is an example of a dish that originated in a home kitchen and eventually made its way into most of the great restaurants.

I cook the apples with the skins on to give a chewier texture. Dried currants (raisins can be substituted), slivered almonds, and dried apricots fill the gaps between the apple chunks and additional apples on top create a flat surface for the pastry to sit on, which gives the tart a nicer shape when it is unmolded.

The tart should be served at room temperature or slightly warm. If you make it ahead, keep it in the skillet. The caramel may stick to the bottom, but the dough on top will stay dry. Then, at serving time, put the tart on the stove over medium heat for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan to melt the caramel, so the tart will unmold easily.

DOUGH



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 6 tablespoons (3?4 stick) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1?4-inch-thick slivers

  • 1?2 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons ice-cold water


FILLING



  • 3 pounds russet, Pippin, or Golden Delicious apples (6–8)

  • 1?4 cup sugar

  • 1?2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • 1?4 cup slivered almonds

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits

  • 1?2 cup sliced dried apricots

  • 1/3 cup dried currants

  • 2 teaspoons sugar


GARNISH



  • 1 cup heavy cream


FOR THE DOUGH:


Put the flour in a food processor, add the butter, sugar, and salt, and process for 5 to 10 seconds. Pieces of butter should still be visible in the dough. Add the cold water and process for another 10 seconds, just until the mixture starts gathering together. Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap, press it into a disk, wrap in the plastic, and refrigerate.

FOR THE FILLING:


Remove the core from each apple at the stem end and at the opposite end, using your thumb as a pivot and rotating the tip of a sharp paring knife as you cut into the apple. Quarter the apples and remove the rest of the cores.

Combine the sugar, 2 tablespoons of the water, and the lemon juice in a 12-inch ovenproof non- stick skillet and cook until the mixture becomes a caramel, about 4 minutes. Add the almonds and cook for 10 seconds. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes, so the caramel hardens. Arrange the apple quarters on top of the set caramel, placing them side by side and skin side down in one layer, making two concentric circles, with a piece of apple in the center. Sprinkle the butter, apricots, and currants on top.

Slice the remainder of the apples thin. (You should have about 3 cups.) Arrange on top of the circles of apples to fill the skillet completely. Add the remaining 1?2 cup water, bring to a boil, cover, and boil gently for 10 minutes. The object here is to soften the apples so they sink down and form a flat surface. Remove the lid and continue cooking over medium heat for 7 to 8 minutes, until there is no liquid visible when you incline the pan slightly. This indicates that most of the water and juices have boiled away and what remains is the sugar and butter, which are beginning to caramelize again. Set aside. (The apples can be made several hours ahead.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with a rack in the center.

Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and place it on a board. Sprinkle with a little flour and roll out to a very thin circle (no more than J inch thick). Trim the edges and then fold the dough in on itself to form an edge that is a little thicker all around.

Place the circle of dough on top of the apples. Press it down with your hands so it lies completely flat. Pierce all over with a fork and sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons sugar, which will caramelize and glaze the dough during cooking.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until nicely browned. Let cool until warm or at room temperature.

At serving time, if the tart has cooled beyond lukewarm, place the skillet back on medium heat and cook, shaking the pan lightly, until the caramel melts. To unmold the tart, place a flat serving dish on top of the skillet and turn the tart out onto the plate.

Beat the heavy cream until firm but not too stiff (no sugar is needed, since the apples are sweet).

Cut the tart into wedges and serve with a good spoonful of whipped cream per serving.

Excerpted from Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food by Jacques Pepin (HMH). Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Read our review of this book.

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