I am very much intrigued by the unique food of Alsace, the tiny region that shares a border and many culinary similarities with Germany. My love for Alsatian food stems from my visit a few years ago to The Modern, which is run by Alsatian chef Gabriel Kruether. There I enjoyed many traditional Alsation dishes, among them a tarte flambée, a simple pizza-like tart. It is also known as flammekueche in Alsatian or flammkuchen in German. It's fundamentally a very simple combination of smoky bacon, sautéed onions, and rich cream on a crispy bread that forms a most amazing salivatingly savory meal.
The flavors I experienced that day still linger in my memory. I knew then that I would try and re-create this Alsatian tart at home. But it wasn't until last week that the thought crossed my mind once I discovered my local supermarket sold crème fraîche, the French sour cream, which is a necessary ingredient for this recipe. To recreate the flavor profiles of the tart I enjoyed at the restaurant, I also searched for applewood-smoked bacon, which I was also luckily able to procure. With all the ingredients in hand, I was now absolutely ready to bake and devour a traditional tarte flambée.
I find the process of making my own pizza dough at home, or in this case a simple bread dough, very rewarding. Pizza making is not limited to the Italians, the French love to use leftover dough to make such easy meals as this tart. The recipe for the dough can make two large rectangular tarts or four mini round pizzas. It's also great for other recipes, such as focaccia. Be sure to use a pizza stone for this recipe, as high heat is necessary for achieving a crisp crust. Though a store-bought pizza dough would work for this recipe, I highly recommend making the dough at home.
Note: If you cannot find crème fraîche, sour cream can be substituted.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablepsoon butter
1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced lengthwise
4 ounces thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon (about 4 slices), diced
8 ounces crème fraîche (1 cup)
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 portion pizza bread, recipe follows
Preheat oven with pizza stone to 450 degrees F.
Warm oil and butter in a large sauté pan set over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer onion to a bowl. Add bacon to same pan and cook until crisp and most of the fat has rendered, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to a second bowl.
To onion, add crème fraîche; mix until combined. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Pull dough into a small rectangle. Transfer to an 12-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet. Work edges of dough with fingers, pressing and stretching dough into corners and sides of pan, making sure dough is even 1/4-inch thickness throughout.
Spread dough with onion and crème fraîche mixture almost to edges. Top with crisped bacon. Bake until edges are golden brown and mixture is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
Recipe for "fougasse" adapted from Richard Bertinet's Dough: Simple Contemporary Breads.
18 ounces bread flour (4 cups)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 ounce dry yeast (2 1/4-ounce packets or 1-1/2 tablespoons)
1-1/2 cups warm water
In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Proof yeast in warm water. Once yeast foams, pour liquid into dry ingredients. Using a scarper, incorporate liquid into flour until completely absorbed and a sticky dough forms.
Scrape dough out onto work surface. Knead dough vigorously for 10 minutes: picking it up, slapping it against the work surface, and folding it over itself. After 10 minutes, dough should form a mass and stick less to the work surface. Form dough into a ball and dust all over with flour. Transfer to large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled for 1 hour.
Scrape dough out of bowl without deflating and turn out onto a well-floured work surface. Dust dough with flour. Let rest for 5 minutes. Then divide into 2 to 4 portions. Use for tarte flambée, fougasse, pizza, focaccia, etc.