My first was in Strasbourg wondering around the streets to work up an appetite casing possible stops and posted menus. I ended up sitting outside in a garden setting along a pedestrian street, ordering a glass of dry, elegant Riesling in those perfect little green stemmed glasses. Hot out of the oven, it was the perfect bite, soft cheese, onion and bacon on a crispy thin crust. What was the secret, I asked my waiter, none he replied “it’s a farmer’s way of using the left-over bits”; extra cheese made in the house, scrapes of ham, and extra dough from the bread loaf, a hot oven, Poof!
For me it became a challenge to try every Flammekuecke, Flambee, or Tarte D’Alsace everywhere I went from Turckheim to Riquewihr when normally I am focused on the wines, Clos or Grand Crus wines of the region. One of the best things about Alsace wines is so few are exported many are just sold locally from their cellars or local restaurants. So it really gives you a mission to try as many as possible when you are there. And until about 20 years ago the Flammekuecken, which means cooked in flames, was the same, just a local specialty for Sunday evening meal for families or something to tie the skiers over on their way home. But as more travelers got a taste for this warm wonderful pizza with their glass of Sylvaner or Riesling, it has spread to all four corners. Then even Trader Joe’s, who loves to find great international specialties for their shoppers, has Tarte D’Alsace in the freezer section. Oh no!
As typical in France, there is Confrerie de la Veritable Tarte Flambee d'Alsace, to safe guard and respect the old Alsatian gastronomic traditions. The brotherhood has 51 members offering the “real” Flammekueche, only made in a wood burning oven, each establishment carries an emblem of their membership at their door.
I am not a member nor do I know the words to their hymn but, I have made the attempts to prepare. A blazing hot oven is needed, as many of us don’t have a wood burning oven. Match stick bacon, super thin slices of onion, fromage blanc and a dough rolled as thin as a crepe should give you the desired results. Keep it simple and crisp!
Then at The Modern, in New York where Gabriel Kreuther was cooking – there it was on the menu- yes, and I have ordered it every time I have been in the restaurant! It truly takes me back to Alsace! It has been so popular that it has never left the menu in the last 15 years. His key to success he says, I heating his pizza stone for an hour! And he shares his recipe.
! E Güeter!
Alsatian Tarte Flambée Recipe
· ¼ cup crème fraîche
· ⅓ cup fromage blanc
· ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
· 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
· Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
· ⅞ cup/110 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
· 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
· 1 ½ teaspoons olive oil
· 1 large egg yolk
· 2 strips/100 grams thick-cut smoked bacon, finely diced (about 2/3 cup)
· ⅓ cup finely chopped white onion
1. Place pizza stone topped with a baking sheet or if you don’t have a stone, just place the baking sheet on the oven rack and heat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, combine crème fraîche, fromage blanc, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Set aside while you make the dough.
3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk to combine flour, baking powder and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.
4. In a small bowl, whisk to combine olive oil, egg yolk and 1/4 cup water. Add to dry ingredients and use a fork to combine until it creates a shaggy dough.
5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 1 minute, until the dough is uniform and elastic. (Flour your hands as necessary to keep the dough from sticking.)
6. Roll out dough to a 12-inch round, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet without a rim (or use an overturned rimmed baking pan).
7. Spread fromage blanc mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the edges. Sprinkle bacon and onions over fromage blanc.
8. Slide tart, still on parchment paper, off baking sheet and directly onto baking sheet in oven.
9. Bake until top is beginning to brown, and sides are golden and crispy, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and slide off parchment paper to serving platter.