Mainland France is divided into twenty-one regions, each having its own distinct culture and signature dishes. Brittany has its crepes, Burgundy its escargots de Bourgogne and Boeuf bourguignon, Languedoc-Roussillon its Cassoulet. The culinary traditions of Alsace are distinctly German in influence, as this region shares a border with that country. Amongst the region’s specialties is the Tarte Flambée, also know as Flammeküche), a sort of pizza made with onions, bacon, and crème fraîche. The latter gives the tarte an unexpected tang that is the perfect foil for the smoky bacon and deeply caramelized onions. It’s simple to make, especially if you whirl the dough around in a food processor, and offers up a bit of the unexpected. It is suitable for lunch or dinner or snack. If you’re pressed for time, you can even use frozen store-bought pizza or bread dough.
Sometimes I add a sprinkling of thyme or rosemary to mine, usually sprinkle it with Gruyere or Comte cheese, and always, always drink it with a good Riesling.
Tarte Flambée de Alsace
For the dough:
2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup or 5 ounces (150g) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 or more tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
5 slices bacon
1 large onion, or 2 medium, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons (30g) butter
3/4 cup (180ml) crème fraîche (I use Liberty)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1) Preheat the oven to 450F. Blend together the flour and butter in a bowl with a pastry blender (or use a food processor) until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with some pea-sized lumps. Add ice water and blend until the mixture holds together; you may need to add several more tablespoons, depending on factors such as humidity etc. Be careful not to overmix the pastry as it will toughen.
2) Turn the dough out on a lightly floured board and form into a ball. Press it down with the heel of your hand to flatten it a bit and then wrap it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 an hour to chill.
3) In the meantime, cook the onions in butter with the salt and pepper, in a skillet over medium heat until they are golden and caramelized. Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on a paper towel and tear or chop into small pieces.
4) Roll out the dough on the floured board into the desired shape. Spread with crème fraîche, onions and bacon and drizzle evenly with the olive oil. Bake for about twenty minutes, or until the tart is golden.