Evan’s Perfect Pear Tatin

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photo by Laurie Dill (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

I had my first pear when I was 17.  I was in Munich, halfway through a back packing trip that was to last nearly a year.  It was freezing.  I had no coat.  As I trudged through the streets to find a warm library or café I spied the biggest avocado I ever saw sitting in a produce shop window.  The sign beneath it said “alligator pear”. Homesickness for Southern California washed over me and I walked into the store and tentatively asked how much it was.  Turned out to be beyond my reach at the equivalent of $5.  So I settled on a real pear.  I was amazed.  Such juiciness, such sweetness!  I couldn’t remember ever eating a pear before.

What followed was one of the funniest conversations I ever had with my mom.  I called from a timed phone booth to ask for money for a winter coat or, even better, a winter coat sent to me.  While I had her on the line, I asked “Why haven’t we ever eaten pears?”.  Her response after a lengthy pause, “I don’t like pears”.  “Why?  Have you eaten one?  Do you like them?”  I said to myself one day I would get her to like pears.  Many decades later that day has come.

Welcome to the Pear Tarte Tatin.  As with most of my first time pie/tart experiences failure seems to come more readily than success.  Yet I forge onward.  Tarte Tatin is one of my favorite desserts yet I’ve never really made a great one.  The caramel has always been my problem.    A couple of weeks ago I was asked to prepare the dessert for An American Farm Dinner, honoring the work of farmer Al Courchesne and Frog Hollow Farm.  Farmer Al sent me a flat of Warren Pears for my experimenting pleasure.  I decided to whip the Tarte Tatin into submission using the pears.  Turns out it’s so easy I recently made two of them while cooking for a dinner party.  Not before the party…during it.

I brought a piece home for Mom.  Her reaction?  “What a marvelous tart!  What’s in it?.  Yeah mom, it’s that exotic ingredient, the pear.