Friday, February 15, 2013


Taking a break.
Had emergency eye surgery.
Still only a one-eyed hack.
Do stay tuned.
Spring fling coming soon....
Meanwhile happy lunar new year to all.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Crank up the oven and raid the larder

Mid February, with the fiercest blizzard on record, is the time to crank up the oven as high as you can get it to go, to raid your pantry and put together a delicious treat from the region of Alsace, Flammekueche. Which across the border in Germany is Flammekuchen. The idea is cooking in the hottest flames, cooking up what are typical leftover or extra ingredients in Alsace: onions, bacon, flour and cream. That's not a hard shopping list to fill even now.

Forget quiche, the cheesy onion bacon tart from the neighboring province of Lorraine. Flammekueche is a thin crusted, creamy onion pizza topped with shreds of bacon. Vegetarians can substitute olives for bacon and enjoy it too. So here you go....

Flammekueche for 4-6 

for the dough:
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 pkg (1/4 oz)highly active yeast (speeds things up)
1/4 cup tepid water
1/4 cup milk at room temperature (cold will kill the yeast)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

This is a cinch if you have a food processor with a plastic paddle. If you have a mini one, make it in two batches and combine the dough balls at the end. 

Combine the cornmeal, flour, salt and highly active yeast in the bowl of the processor.
Turn it on and slowly pour in the water, milk and olive oil.
Continue processing until a dough ball forms.
Remove dough and place it in a large oiled bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough sit for an hour until it doubles in size.

For the topping:
2 lg yellow onions, peeled and quartered
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
Fresh ground black pepper to your taste (don't be shy)
8 oz fromage blanc or ricotta cheese
2 tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream or mascarpone
1/2 lb slab bacon
2 tbsp rapeseed or mustard or any tangy oil (use olive as a last resort)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of coarse sea salt to serve

While the dough rises, put the onions in the food processor with the steel blade installed. Finely chop the onions. Add a large pinch of salt and let them sit so the water comes out of them.

Cut the slab bacon into matchstick pieces.

Go do something else for a while.

When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, fold it over itself twice and put it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl. Let it sit a few more minutes.

Heat the oven to 500º.  You need it to be as hot as you can get it.

Drain the onions and put them in a medium size bowl. Stir in the caraway seed, black pepper and two cheeses. Blend everything well.

Oil a rectangular cookie/baking sheet.  Get everything ready.
Roll the dough into a very thin rectangle to fill the baking sheet. Ideally the dough is almost as thin as a piece of paper. You can keep rolling it in the pan too: use a small bottle or can if your rolling pin is too big.

Cover the dough entirely, leaving no empty edges, with the creamy onion mixture.
Scatter the bacon all over the top.
Lightly sprinkle nutmeg across the top.
Drizzle the 2 tbsp oil over the top, evenly.

Do not put this into an oven that is not at 500º. Put it in the hot oven and bake 12-15 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and brown and the bacon is brown too. Every oven will be different.

Remove from the oven. Lightly sprinkle with coarse sea salt and serve immediately cut in large squares.

This is Alsatian pub food great with beer or strong white wine. It's a winter wonder.