My 8 year old son sings a jingle on Friday nights. Sorry, sing is generous. It’s more of an improvised warble of his own creation. He hasn’t locked down a melody, and its key is up for grabs, but the lyrics are more or less fixed.
and a Tarte Flambée.
Eat your heart out, Cole Porter, ‘cause this ditty’s de-one of a kind. I’m thrilled to have a son who’s made up a weekly tune about an Alsatian pizza, but it delights me even more to hear him explain tarte flambée to his skeptical 8 year old pals. “It’s like thin-crust pizza, but with crème fraîche instead of tomato sauce, lots of onions and bacon—well lardons.” Oh, thank you, Jeebus, for blessing us with this nerd-child. Thank you so much. Like, what would I do if I’d gotten a kid who came to me about baseball, or football, or any sports-ball for that matter. “What’s a designated hitter? Oh, that’s the guy who gave the best audition for homerunner-er.” Sorry, kid, all I got is useless food history and Shakespeare quotes. He talks sports, for sure, but only with my wife, who can name the starting lineup of every Bears team since they won the Super Bowl back in oh my God I’m already bored. Around me, his interests drift food-ward, and it’s de-enchanting to hear him croon about tarte flambée.
Tarte flambée or flàmmeküeche (pronounced ‘fla:m•ku:xə) is a specialty of Alsace.
Travel five hours from Paris, straight east, and you’ll hit this border region with with a powerful culinary influence. The bustling heart of Alsace, Strasbourg, has changed hands many times over its history. In the 15th century it was part of the Holy Roman Empire, but in the 17th century France annexed it. The German Empire took it in the 19th century, only to return it to French hands after WWI. During WWII Germany snatched it back. And since 1944, when it was liberated from the Germans, Strasbourg has been France’s eastern-most major city.
(12" Chris Kidder Special with sunburst G-Fusion handle)
Strasbourg may have been tugged back and forth between these two bickering parents, but it never seems to suffer from an identity crisis. Strasbourg’s entirely unique sense of self manages to honor both sides. And as with many things in Europe, one of its strongest personal expressions is culinary. Interestingly, Alsace has given much to France’s culinary identity. The once-ubiquitous lunchtime feast, choucroute, comes from Alsace. Cordon-bleu, or, chicken stuffed with ham and gruyère, then breaded and fried also hails from this region. The entire idea of the modern brasserie, or brewery restaurant, was inherited from Alsace. Alsatian wines are stellar. Gewürztraminer, is probably the most celebrated, but it’s Alsatian Riesling, bone-dry and brightly acidic, that is the perfect accompaniment to Alsace’s most loved culinary export, tarte flambée.
Tarte Flambée was originally a farmer’s meal. Farming regions or communes often shared a large oven. Some of these were still in use in the by the end of the 19th century, but most that exist today are ruins. These communal ovens were used by members of the immediate region to prepare baked goods. Modern temperature-taking methods, like oven thermometers obviously weren’t available, so temperature was checked by baking a tarte flambée. Using a simple dough, onions, crème fraîche and scraps of bacon, the tarte flambées would slide into the oven on a peel, and cook in just a couple of minutes.
See? I told you I’m the guy for these fascinating, far-more-fun-than-football facts. Nevertheless, I can’t recommend tarte flamée enough. Go out, buy a couple onions, some bacon and crème fraîche, and find a bottle of Alsatian Riesling. Then come home and make a big mess in the kitchen. When you eat this intensely flavored French pizza with a German accent, you, too, will be making up ridiculous jingles every Friday night.
Note: If your grocery store sells raw pizza dough, you can use that as well. It should be about 1 pound.