A couple of weeks ago I got a call from a reporter for France 3 Normandie, Christiane Lablancherie. She’s producing a series on Joy at the Table and wanted to include On Rue Tatin. I don’t hold classes during this season, so I suggested she film our monthly wine tasting and she jumped all over it.
Christiane’s mandate was that I prepare two dishes, that she talk about my books, that she film us sipping and tasting. Hardly rough duty. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and test a recipe for Plat du Jour at the same time. My recipe choice? Chicken with Shallots.
And of course Christiane wanted me to make Tarte Tatin. It’s a cornerstone of French cuisine, common as rainwater, but the Tarte Tatin that issues from On Rue Tatin is, I must admit, perfection.
Gathering ingredients was the first step. This involved a call to Baptiste, “my” maraicher, market gardener. I hardly take a culinary step without him, because whatever he is pulling from the ground is not only the best, but it’s in season. He’s a pillar of the wine group too; we don’t do a tasting without him.
Two hours before everyone arrived the whole chickens went in the oven to roast, stuffed with clementines because I had them on hand; I usually use either orange or lemon. I peeled all the shallots, then turned to the apples for the Tarte Tatin. Christiane wanted to film me doing the prep but I know what it is like to watch someone peel and core six pounds of apples. Boring. So I got two-thirds of them ready to go. I made the pastry so it could rest. I preheated the oven. I put the sugar in the tarte tatin pan.
Christiane arrived at 5:30 to do reconnaissance, then the film crew arrived at six. When they walked in the kitchen, both Didier the cameraman and Serge the sound man, stopped dead in their tracks. “We imagined filming in a tiny kitchen, which is always so awkward,” Didier said. “This is heaven.”
With the scent of roasting chicken and shallots filling the air, I finished up the apples while they filmed, everything from the peeler to the melon ball maker I use to scoop out the core. I rolled out the pastry and set the apples to caramelizing, then guests began to arrive. Didier, Serge, and Christiane were star-struck by the hugs and kisses all around. Perhaps they expected formality, but no. We’ve all been tasting together for a very long time we’re now practically related. One learns much about another over multiple glasses of terrific wine…
Join me for unforgettable experiences, with some of the same cast of characters, at the amazing On Rue Tatin cooking experiences!
Everyone pitched in to transform the kitchen island into a table, setting it with paper and glasses, pens and spittoons. I removed the chickens from the oven and transferred them to a cutting board. I had leftover apples from the tarte Tatin so I cut them up and added them to the roasting pan with the shallots. It solved a problem and I figured the more the merrier,. The pan went back in the oven to so the apples and shallots could continue to roast.
Back at the Tarte Tatin, and the apples were caramelized, so I tucked the pastry around them, and slid the pan in the oven. We all sat down to begin the wine tasting, the cameras and boom everywhere at once. I knew that my moment of truth would come as I took out the tart and flipped it. I’ve done this perhaps thousands of times. Well, hundreds. And every time I’m sweating. The pan is hot, heavy, and filled with blistering caramel; the platter is big, wide, slick. But, flipping has to be done and I’m the one to do it.
The moment arrived. Silence filled the kitchen. The camera and boom zoomed in and I flipped the tart pan. I suppose no one was the wiser, but seriously? I was petrified. Oh well, I guess it’s good to stay scared. Then, you stay careful. And the result was…see above! After my flipping exploit everyone clapped. It’s the first time I’ve been applauded for a Tarte Tatin.
We got back to swirling and tasting as the crew filmed, Christiane asked questions, and the evening wore sweetly on. I finished the sauce for the chicken, cut them up and filled plates. By now the film crew were part of the party and they sat with us to eat. Silence descended as everyone tasted. It was, I will admit, succulent, delicious. And while the apples had been an afterthought, Il never again make this dish without them. Their sweetness was the perfect counterpoint.
As for the wines? Well, Herve and I did what we do. He never knows what I’m going to serve; I never know which wines he’ll bring. Our philosophies match. If the wine is fantastic and the food is perfect, they go together. As was the case this evening. He’d brought six bottles from Domaine de Ribonnet, gorgeous, full-bodied yet delicate wines from near Toulouse. Organically produced, carefully made, they were “petits merveilles.”
You can watch the episode. You’ll feel like you’re right there. And you can be, with many of the same cast of characters. Please, come live the experience!
And here is the Chicken with Shallots and Apples. Bear in mind this recipe has been made and loved, but it may need some tweaking. If you make it and have comments please tell me!