Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Flammekueche, and a new friend

My parents moved to Strasbourg last month. They’ve been sampling the local Alsatian cuisine, which they tell me is on the decadent side: lots of sausages, crème fraîche, cheese, and lardons.

Lardons are something that I’ve been missing here. They’re basically cubed bacon, but they’re salt-cured, cook up less crispy, and substitutes such as bacon or pancetta just don’t quite cut it. Lardons are used in such dishes as quiche lorraine, and also in salads. They’re not impossible to find in Montreal (quality butcher’s shops carry them), but they are nowhere near as available here as in France and Belgium, where you can find ten different kinds of lardons in every supermarket.

But we recently visited a nearby French butcher’s shop and saw some lardons for sale. We weren’t sure what we would do with them yet, but we didn’t want to pass them up. When we got home, we decided to try our hand at making an Alsatian specialty: flammekueche, or tarte flambée.

This dish is not entirely unknown in Montreal. The wine bar POP! serves it, and the popular restaurant and microbrewery chain Les 3 Brasseurs specializes in flammekueches. Basically, the tarte flambée is like a very thin pizza. Toppings can be adapted every which way, but the traditional recipe includes lardons, crème fraîche and/or fromage blanc, and onions.

I found a lot of flammekueche recipes online, and they were all different. So I combined some of them, and added some steps of my own. It was very rich, but very satisfying, with the salty lardons, luscious crème fraîche, and slightly sweet onions. Give it a try!

Laurent’s parents are coming over for dinner tomorrow, and I should be doing prep work for the meal. But I can’t. Because of this critter:

Meet our new cat, Paprika. She’s eight months old, and we brought her home from the shelter yesterday. One year after the death of my beloved bunny Q-Tip, I decided the apartment felt very empty, especially on days when I’m working from home. So we talked about it, and decided on a kitty, because they’re a little more independent than rabbits. And no, the title of this blog will not be changed to "The Chocolate Kitty." :-)

So far, Paprika has proven to be extremely affectionate and sweet. She loves to cuddle and sleep next to us. She’s still quite young, so she likes to play a lot, and it doesn’t take much to get her excited: a piece of ribbon, a blanket… my hair…

There’s just one problem: she keeps jumping on the kitchen counter. Especially when I’m cooking. Last night, when I opened the pot of crème fraîche, she went nuts: clearly, fatty dairy ranks very high on her list of desirable treats. Laurent had to take her away so that I could finish making dinner.

I often take cooking breaks from work during the day, but right now I’m just scared that Paprika will pounce while I’m chopping stuff, or while I’m elbow-deep in ground meat. I’d rather wait for Laurent to hold the fort.

Ah well, I’m sure we’ll work it out eventually. At least I know it’s still possible to make tarte flambée.

Traditional Tarte Flambée
Serves 3-4

For the dough:
250g (9 oz, 1 3/4 cup) flour
160 – 200 ml ( 2/3 - 3/4 cup) water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil

1 onion, thinly sliced
250g (9 oz) lardons
120 ml (1/2 cup) crème fraîche (or substitute with sour cream)
1 tbsp fromage blanc (or substitute with plain yogurt)
120 ml (1/2 cup) shredded gruyere cheese (optional)
Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 260ºC (500ºF).

In a mixing bowl, or with a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and oil. Mix in the water gradually, adding just enough to form a soft dough that isn’t sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cover the onions in cold water, stir in 1 tsp of salt and 2 tbsp of white vinegar, and let soak for 30 minutes.

In a skillet over medium high heat, sauté the lardons, stirring often, until they are browned and crispy. Remove the lardons from the pan, leaving the fat in the skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Drain and rinse the onions, then add them to the pan. Sauté them until they are soft and translucent (do not let them brown or caramelize). Remove from heat and reserve.

In a small bowl, combine the crème fraîche and fromage blanc. Season with pepper. Reserve.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, until it is about 5 mm (1/4 inch) thick. Place it on a holed pizza baking sheet. Spread the crème fraîche mixture over the dough, leaving a margin around the border. Sprinkle the onions, lardons, and gruyere (if using) over the mixture.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the dough is crispy and the surface of the tarte is golden brown. Cut into wedges and serve immediately alongside a tossed green salad.


  1. Oh I had had this "tarte" before, so good. Oh cool so you get to go to Alsace soon? Lucky!

    Paprika is too cute! Here is a tip...lay aluminum paper on your counter, cats can't stand walking on it.

  2. O my! Paprika is so cute and that name is just fabulous and so fitting too... :) And as if she is jealous, while I am typing this (I am on the couch) Gizmo is determined to sit on my lap which makes it a little hard to see the screen..) Congratulations on your new family member. Looks like she's gonna be fun!!

    As for the kitchen counter jumping; I am glad Gizmo is not able to jump so high anymore (she is 19 years old, so definitely no counter jumping there) but when she was younger what seemed to work was to use some kind of little waterpistol. Everytime she jumped on the counter we squirted some water in her neck and clicked our fingers. Eventually the clicking of the fingers alone was enough to make her realize she should not jump on the counter. She still did it when we were not looking though... :)
    Sorry for this very long comment!

  3. I love this kind of tart, but I've only ever made it on a yeasted pizza dough. I'll have to try this version. Paprika is adorable! I love cats and I miss having one. I don't miss the counter jumping and hair on everything, though!

  4. When I started to read about Paprika, I was going to make the joke of changing the name of your blog to "The Chocolate Cat"! I LOL when I read the last sentence.

    I have no experience with cat, that's why I have 2 fishes in the aquarium so I don't have to worry about distractions.

    I got introduced to tarte flambée two years ago, never had a chance to make. Which butcher shop do you get your lardons?

  5. Tarte flambee looks great! I love thick pizzas, thin pizzas, flatbread pizzas - you name it, and this one looks yum!

  6. I am with Simone in the name of the cat and her suggestion is excellent... and NEVER apologize for a long post, Simone. I think they are a gift. I have had these a few times in France, and they are delicious.There is a restaurant chain in Paris down a side street from the Champs where I always took my students for a dinner of these. YUM. This one is the ONLY one, to me. I have never made one, and now I get to. THANK YOU!
    Valerie... slowly catching up
    Also loved the chocolate cat comment from Victor!

  7. That tarte looks absolutely decadent! Maybe I'll make one for Easter...

  8. Paprika is a cute name for your lovely new animal; a lovely cat! She is pretty too!

    I love Strasbourg a lot & so does my husband. He went there a couple of times for his work. There are some great patisseries there as well. When my husabnd saw your Flammekueche, I immediately, had to make it!

    It was ooh so tasty & wonderful! He said , that it tasted like Strasbourg!