I suppose I should explain. After all, I wouldn't entirely blame you if you took one look at that photograph and asked yourself just what exactly I was thinking when I took it. Well, that tarte you see up there may not be as beautiful as you'd expect, but you can blame that on my obstinate refusal to buy a nonstick pan. If you can get over the half-moons of caramelized kabocha squash flung willy-nilly over the peppered short crust, there's actually a pretty delicious recipe to be found.
I clipped the recipe for this savory version of the archetypically French tarte Tatin from the Los Angeles Times more than three years ago. I urge you not to wait that long before trying it yourselves. But before we continue, let me just make sure you aren't confusing it with this recipe. They're really quite similar, but different in some fundamental ways and while I haven't made the citrouillat myself, it doesn't entice me at all. Who knows why? (I think I need to stop writing posts on Saturday nights.)
Numbingly boring questions aside, this tart is lovely. The kabocha squash (it's the only squash I enjoy biting into) becomes creamy and incredibly sweet through both the pan-caramelization and the oven-roasting. The fudgy white goat cheese melts funkily in the background along with the herbed tangle of onions that have been cooked to a glossy brown tangle of flavor. The peppery short crust is tender and literally melts in your mouth (though if I make this again, it's going to be with a puff pastry crust to lighten things a bit).
So the squash layer stuck to my cast-iron skillet instead of unmolding in perfect half-moons. Who cares? All you have to do is barely blink an eye, gently scrape the caramelized topping out of the pan and rearrange it as best you can on the crust. Sometimes, I think, being a good cook is all about keeping your cool.
Pumpkin Tarte Tatin
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
About 1/4 small (3 to 3 1/2 pounds) pumpkin
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
Coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
1 tablespoon pumpkin seed oil (or olive oil)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 ounce soft goat cheese
1. For the crust, combine the flour, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and toss with a fork to mix well. Cut the chilled unsalted butter into one-quarter-inch pieces and rub into the dry ingredients with fingertips until the mixture resembles very coarse meal. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water and toss until the ingredients cling together, adding 1 tablespoon more water if necessary. Pull together into a ball and knead very lightly, then pat out into a thick round on wax paper. Wrap the dough in the wax paper and chill it while cooking the pumpkin.
2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel and seed the pumpkin and cut it into one-quarter-inch-thick slices.
3. Combine the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch (measured across the top) nonstick, ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, salt to taste and half the thyme and sauté, stirring often, until very soft and caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
4. Wipe the skillet clean and add the remaining butter and the pumpkin seed oil; melt over medium heat. Arrange the pumpkin slices in the skillet in slightly overlapping layers, but with most of the pumpkin flat on the skillet so the surfaces will caramelize. The pumpkin should cover the bottom completely. Sprinkle with the remaining thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until the bottom slices start to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover the skillet and cook until the pumpkin is soft but not falling apart, about 10 minutes. Drizzle with the cream and remove from the heat. Crumble the goat cheese and scatter the onions evenly over the pumpkin.
5. Cut a sheet of wax paper into a 10-inch round. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough under the sheet to make a crust, using the sheet as a guide. Remove the wax paper and carefully fit the crust over the pumpkin, tucking and crimping the perimeter to seal it completely.
6. Bake in the top third of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is browned. Using a small spatula around the edges of the skillet to release the crust, immediately unmold the tarte onto a serving platter (place a platter over the skillet and invert it). Cut it into wedges and serve warm or hot.