I know, I know. I said no meat. But we’re still missing France like crazy, and this easy appetizer (or, if you’re a glutton like I am, a shameful dinner) was one of our favorite tastes of Alsace, a Germanic region in the Northeast corner of France where the accent is thick & the flavors rich with tasty fats. The region bounced back & forth between the countries, hence the French & German name for this dish. (I mean, who wouldn’t want to claim it as their own?)
To sum up the traditional foods of Alsace, I offer this anecdote: Joe & I went out for dinner with friends one chilly autumn afternoon while living in France. We decided to do the formule, a menu with a starter + entrée + dessert or coffee. For his starter, Joe opted for an “Alsacian salad.” What came out was a pile of lettuce topped with lardons equal to several strips of bacon, two sliced hard-boiled eggs & in place of dressing, a large dollop of crème fraîche. This was his starter. Needless to say, he opted for coffee instead of a dessert.
The flavors of this tart are incredible & scream comfort. I’ve had this tart topped with fromage blanc, a cheese with the texture- and tang-level of yogurt + sour cream, or even with some Gruyère shredded and thinly layered on top. But what I love most about this region of France, from the spice-filled desserts to spaetzle, is the hint of nutmeg that pulls everything together. I’m always surprised to find nutmeg on their ingredient lists, & it always adds a great layer of deliciousness.
This tart was a regular part of a trip to a restaurant, a dinner party with friends, an afternoon out for beers… You get the idea. The tarte flambée & I became perhaps too acquainted. Since returning to the States, we haven’t splurged on this calorie fest. Until today.
Now, I opted for a dough from Martha Stewart’s version of tarte flambée, but after the dough I have to seriously disagree with this Queen of the Kitchen. Sure, change things up to make them your own… when they need it. But here, these traditional flavors of this are Alsace. Don’t stray too far.
- your favorite pizza dough, or the dough from Martha Stewart’s recipe
- 6 strips of thick, smoky bacon (or 1/2 cup of lardons, if you can find them)
- a large yellow onion
- 1/2 cup of sour cream
- 1/2 cup of Gruyère, if you like
- sprinkle of black pepper
- sprinkle of nutmeg
- Get your dough ready. It’ll have to rise for about 1.5 hours, so make sure you’re not too hungry when you get started!
- While the dough rises, get your onion thinly sliced. Ditto with the bacon–cut it into thin strips so that it can crisp up a bit in the oven without oozing grease all over your pizza.
- When the dough has about 20 minutes left to rise, preheat the oven. Crank that heat all the way up to 475 F. You need to give it a long time to reach that temperature & hold it evenly.
- Sauté your onion & bacon together–no need for extra oil or fat. Just turn it to medium & give the bacon time to let out its fat & soften the onions. Don’t crisp the bacon. Remember: it still has to be in a hot oven.
- Grab a large piece of parchment. Form your dough into a ball, & roll it out onto the parchment. Rather than a traditional 12-in pizza, work the dough into a large rectangle. You want this dough thin–to crisp up quickly rather then becoming thick & fluffy. When the dough is a large, thin rectangle (about 1/8 in thick), slide a cookie sheet under the parchment & dough.
- Spread the sour cream over the dough. Top with your sautéed sliced onion & bacon. Sprinkle with black pepper & nutmeg to taste. If you’re topping the tart with cheese, sprinkle that on there.
- Bake the pizza for four minutes. Rotate. Bake for another four minutes. If the crust still seems a bit soft, give the tart more oven time–but check frequently! You don’t want burnt bacon & onion.
Now, I’m not usually a big proponent of beer or wine pairings… but this tart calls a few things to mind. Alsace has an incredible, distinct white wine that is becoming increasingly popular in the states: Gewurztraminer (guh-verts-tra-mean-er). It was what I splurged on each time we went out to eat a cozy, Alsacian meal. Even if you’re not crazy about whites, give this a try. It’s like God pulled this wine from nutmeg’s rib or something. Not convincing? Then find a bière de la garde, which is just a light “farmhouse ale” style popularized in Northern France. You’ll want some lightness if you’re eating much of this tart!
Other notes on pairing: Joe & I split this tart for dinner with a big salade, the French word for both lettuce & salad… because they frequently serve salads that are just lettuce. It seems weird, but we love it. Just have a pile of baby lettuces or mâche with a simple olive oil, sea salt & pepper drizzle. The freshness balances out all that bacon & cream.