In the beautiful city of Bordeaux, France (pictured at right), you're more likely to find a tarte tatin aux pommes than a good old American apple pie. Tarte tatin? What's that? What's the difference? According to wikipedia, a tarte Tatin is a reversed apple tart in which the apples have been caramelized in sugar and butter before being added to the tart. More clearly stated, the apples are caramelized in a pan with the sugar and butter and then beautifully arranged in large pie pan (more like a quiche pan). The crust is placed on top of the apples and the whole is put into the oven. When the tarte tatin is done baking, take it out, flip it over, and voila, tarte tatin. Where did this bizarre pie-thing come from? According to tradition, the dessert was created by Stéphanie (1838-1917) and Caroline Tatin (1847-1911) in Lamotte-Beuvron, France. While catering to a group of hunters, one of these sisters apparently let a tarte aux pommes burn. Insteading of throwing out the mistake and chalking it up to a bad oven (or what have you!), she stuck a pie crust on it, threw it in the oven, and called it soup. (Or rather, a tarte tatin.) The hunters liked it, the sisters made it again, a French tradition is born.
And what about apple pie? American apple pie? Another culinary secret that we stole and revamped from the French? No! The origins of the American apple pie can be found in Chaucer's day - the first documented recipe is from 1381 meaning that Apple pie a l'americaine predates tarte tatin! This original recipe calls for "good apples, good spices, figs, raisins, [saffron], and pears" as well as cofyn or pastry. Today, we know that apple pie is good for dessert, breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. It can be eaten hot or cold as well as unadorned or accompagnied by ice cream, whip cream, or even (though I'm not a believer!) cheese. It is, I think, one of the best foods in existence today.
This is the American apple pie that I made in Bordeaux. I made the pie crust using an "easy pie crust" recipe from Cooks.com. There's no rolling pin in the house, so I washed our bottle of balsamic vinegar (label off, lots of hot soapy water, and made sure the cap was screwed on tightly because this bottle is still half full!) and used that. There is also no round pie pan, so a square casserole dish will have to do!
The apples were Granny smith simply because they're my favourite and thus what we happened to have in the house. I coated the peeled/chopped apples in a cinnamon/sugar mixture, filled the pie crust, latticed the second pie crust, and put it into a preheated oven (350 F) for about 30 minutes. The top started to get to dark, so I covered it with foil (according to Mom's wisdom and here again we have the proof - Mom knows best. Just do what she says!).
So how'd the American apple pie go over in the country of tarte tatin? Not badly; I was washing the very empty casserole dish not even a day later. Maybe next time we'll try it with cheese!