Sunday, November 4, 2012

Recipe of the month: Flammekueche


First of all, before anything else, you will want to know how the heck this is pronounced. Well, that’s easy. It’s pronounced "flahm-koosh". Although I’ve heard it many other ways as well, so don’t let pronunciation keep you from making it. And when people ask what it is, you can tell them, just like that: flahm-koosh.
     This recipe comes from Alsace in the east of France (even though it’s also on the menu of restaurants in the north near the Belgian border). It means flaming tart, or more specifically a "pie baked in the flames." It was traditionally made to test the heat of the baker’s oven before he started baking the bread. Flammekueche is one of the most well-known specialties of Alsace. And of Germany as well, right there on the opposite bank of the Rhine.
     Alsace sits on France’s border with Germany (and Switzerland) and stretches north/south along the Rhine River. Over history, it has been part of both countries, and before that part of the Holy Roman Empire. In my early years in Paris, the wife of the baker near my apartment was from Alsace. She told me about being born in Germany and then becoming French, all without leaving her native town. That’s because Alsace, which had been part of France since the 17th century, was conquered by Germany in the Franco-Prussian War and given back to France only at the end of World War I. So Mme. Prandy had been forbidden to speak French when she was a child, then forbidden to speak German as a young woman... but she could always speak Alsatian, which is actually more a form of German than anything else.
     In addition to the language, the cuisine of the region is also very heavily accented in German. That means a lot of pork. And the traditional flammekueche involves thick-cut bacon and onions and cheese on a thin crust. So it’s very much an Alsatian pizza. As a matter of fact, it was basically a home-cooked dish until the pizza craze swept France in the Sixties. Mushrooms can be substituted for the bacon, if you want a vegetarian version, and Munster cheese for the usual fromage blanc. But unlike a pizza, it’s usually rectangular in shape.
     The dough is just a pizza dough. To make this easy dish even easier if you’re running late or just don’t feel like being Julia Child-ish, you can use a ready-made pizza dough. Be sure to roll it out very thin. It’s perfect for a dinner among friends on a cold day.

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin rounds
  • ½ c crème fraîche, commercial or homemade (see note)
  • ½ c fromage blanc (ricotta or low-fat cream cheese)
  • 4 pinches nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • freshly-ground pepper, to taste
  • 6 oz thick-cut slab bacon, chopped or cut into matchsticks

- Preheat the oven to 450°F (230 °C)
- Heat 1 T of the oil in a skillet. Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring, until golden brown (about 5 min). Let cool a bit.
- Combine the crème fraîche, cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooled onion.
- Heat the remaining oil in the skillet and fry the bacon until lightly browned, stirring constantly. Remove and drain on paper towels.
- Oil a 14 x 16 inch baking sheet. Roll the dough until it’s slightly smaller than the baking sheet. Place it on the sheet and spread the onion mixture over the dough, leaving a very small raised rim all the way around, then dot with the bacon.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tart is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Accompany with a crisp green salad and serve with beer or a fruity white wine.

NOTE: If you can’t find crème fraîche, you can make your own by combining 1 cup heavy cream with 2 tablespoons buttermilk, stir, cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, or until it has become very thick. Refrigerate and it will become even thicker. It can be used for lots of other recipes, such as pepper steaks (steaks au poivre) or veal scallops with mushrooms (veau à la normande).

1 comment:

  1. The recipe was welcome reading after coming home from church. Wish it would have materialized in front of me!
    I believe pork is my favorite meat and, on my own, I would indulge more often.
    As always, thanks for the cozy setting and generous provender.