So it's Monday and I'm cranky. One look at the gray sky, and another at the weather forecasting rain and continuing forty degree temperatures was enough to send me into a fit of self-doubt regarding my choice to move to this part of the world. There is not a single part of Chicago winter that I enjoy, unless you count the immense feeling of relief that comes over the city when the oppressive cold finally lifts in, say, June.
Fall, however, I can get on board with, if for no other reason than it is apple season. I was specifically pleased to come across a steady supply of Winesap apples at Lincolnwood Produce up north. Winesaps, with their dull burgundy skin and crisp greenish-white flesh are a great eating apple. They also make fantastic baking apples. After several tests I've decided they made a superior apple pie, and now I can say with confidence that they make a darn good apple tarte tatin, or French apple tart, or caramelized apple tart, or what my roommate now calls apple butter magic. And she ain't lyin'!
For those of you who can't be bothered to assemble a double crust apple pie, for those who don't want to take the time to slice all those apples, etc., this may prove a go-to dessert for you. Here's what you do:
Make a single crust for a pie (or you can use frozen puff pastry).
In a 10 inch skillet (I like cast iron, but anything you can put into the oven will do the trick) melt about 4 tablespoons of butter and a half cup of sugar. Place peeled, cored apple quarters (6 to 8 large apples will do the trick) in concentric circles in the pan, fitting them in snugly, as many as will fit. The apples will shrink as they lose moisture.
Cook without disturbing until the caramel that results in the bubbling butter/sugar/apple juice mixture bubbles up between the apples a dark caramel color. This will take about 20 minutes, give or take. Meanwhile you should be preheating your oven to about 425 degrees.
Turn the heat off under the apples and place your rolled, chilled pastry on top, tucking the edges in around the apples. Bake until the crust is a deep golden brown.
Let cool for five or ten minutes, then put a plate on top of the pan and flip the whole thing over. I don't need to remind you that the pan will still be hotter than all get-out. Use potholders. The tart should fall onto the plate completely. You can tuck any apples that stick to the pan back where they came from. It's best served warm. But I didn't seem to have much of a problem eating it for breakfast cold the next day.