Tarte Flambée Alsacienne (Flammekueche)
Since I’ve been writing about Alsace lately, I thought it would be a good idea to make one of their most iconic dishes, the tarte flambée or flammekueche. It’s a flat bread with crème fraiche, very thinly sliced onion and lardon cooked in a super hot wood-burning oven. I’d hate to offend the wonderful and generous people of Alsace but for lack of a better word, you can call it Alsatian pizza.
The flammekueche as it is called in Alsace is a dish that is common to that little fairytale corner of France and the equally magical German Black Forest. This territory went back and forth between the two countries many times. Today and for the past 100 plus years, it belongs to France. It has a very long, tumultuous and often bloody history. I’m sure that there are a lot of wonderful things about the marriage of Franco-German cultures but for the ignorant tourist like me, the most obvious results would be the beautiful architecture and the delicious, oh so delicious food.
I haven’t eaten this for almost two years. I had to do a bit of digging to find the recipe that I like. In the end I decided to make my own Franken-recipe and the result is surprisingly great, okay, it’s a tad salty but maybe that’s just me. Just drink a chilled very slightly sweet Gewürztraminer, Riesling or Zinfandel to fix it. Better yet, drink beer.
For the record, I used store-bought pizza dough. Sorry!!! Making pizza dough is just one of those life skills that I have very miserably failed to achieve. Ahem…I did, however, make my own crème fraiche. Well…okay, it’s not that hard to make. I really shouldn’t brag about that. Speaking of another skill which I struggle to master, food photography is freaking hard! Since we eat the food that I shoot, I have to shoot fast or poor Al will have to eat cold food which he hates more than anything in the world. I had no idea it is going to be like this. Granted I haven’t been cooking a lot lately but taking a picture of each and everyone of the dishes that I made has been a serious struggle. I don’t know how the food people on Instagram do it. The lighting is so tricky, I just can’t get it right. Let’s not even talk about angles and composition. I mean it’s food, it doesn’t move so it shouldn’t be this hard but I’m struggling. My respect for food photographers and food bloggers have skyrocketed since I started doing this myself. It’s so much easier to take pictures of random strangers on the street than take pictures of food, argh!
Speaking of crème fraiche and other dairy products, I never really paid attention to these things since I first set foot in Europe. I’m Filipino. I was raised on plastic cheese and Kraft Cheese Whiz. I thought the taste of milk and dairy got exponentially better when I moved to Canada but when I visited Europe, especially France, plain simple butter alone was a genuine revelation. Maybe French cows just don’t do as much drugs as North American cows or maybe our weeds are stronger that they kill whatever flavour is present in our cows’ milk, or maybe French cows are fed copious amounts of wine so they have that characteristic French joie de vivre. In case you’re wondering, I’m not drunk.
Tarte Flambée Alsacienne (Flammekueche)
- 1 pre-made pizza dough, stretched thinly into a 16 inch circle
- 100 grams of pancetta, very thinly sliced (if you can find it, use French lardons, Canadian bacon or regular bacon)
- 100 grams of Muenster cheese (If you can’t find it, use Monterrey Jack as a substitute)
- 1 1/4 cup of crème fraiche (use full fat Greek yoghurt as a substitute)
- 1/4 cup of regular cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup of onions, sliced in paper-thin strips
- freshly grated nutmeg to taste (1/4 teaspoon would be a good start)
- 1 scant tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
- freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Instructions to make the crème fraiche:
- Mix 2 cups of organic cream with 3 tablespoons of full fat organic buttermilk. I usually don’t care for that organic crap but it’s the closest I can get to the taste of the genuine thing. French crème fraiche is rich, tangy and has a slightly addictive nutty and grassy flavour to it.
- Store in a dark place, unrefrigerated for 12 hours and then store in the fridge for 24 more hours. The top will form a bit of skin so stir to mix well before using.
Instructions for making the flammekueche:
- You will need a pizza baking stone. Preheat the pizza stone to 450F for at least 30 minutes. This will give your flammekueche a crunchy crust.
- If you don’t have a pizza stone, use a flat and shallow baking tray, line it with parchment paper and shape your dough into a rectangle. You will just have to make sure that the dough is stretched very thinly.
- Mix the crème fraiche, cottage cheese and nutmeg and spread evenly on top of the crust, leaving about 1/2 an inch on each side.
- Distribute the onion and pancetta evenly on top of the crust, sprinkle with chopped rosemary and freshly cracked black pepper. Top with sliced Muenster cheese. Muenster stinks to the high heavens but it is oh so good. It’s an acquired taste for sure. It’s the secret ingredient of my recipe though.
- Transfer onto the pizza stone and bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 450F. Watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn.