The idea popped into my head as I was sitting in a restaurant in Paris, observing people from behind my croque-monsieur. In my head I was thinking of how French food manages to taste so good. It's remarkable, really. Food tastes much more fresh in France, possibly because they always, always, always use fresh ingredients. Every time I travel to France, I'm always amazed of how much the French manage to make their food taste so much more like itself. But I digress. What I really wanted to tell you about was my new idea, my new project. Yup. I'm going to make regional and local food from all over the Republic and I'm going to savour it.
At first I thought of simply having a month-long 'Around France' theme, but this idea was quickly lost as I realised I couldn't possibly introduce regional French cooking in a single month alone. Besides, as much as I love French food, the idea of only cooking French for a month was not appealing. So there was nothing left for me to do but spend a while on this project, which frankly doesn't bother me at all. Projects are great – they keep me busy and driven.
One of the things I really wish to accomplish with this project is getting to know new foods and ingredients better. A lot of the regional recipes I've found these past couple of weeks were completely new to me, and this was exactly what I wanted. Food that is going to be new to many, yet daily food to others; exciting and down-to-earth. French food does indeed have a reputation of being complicated, time-consuming and expensive, but this is not necessarily true. Sure there are some that are complicated, but many are so easy to make it borders on the ridiculous.
People have occasionally voiced the concern that I am interested in French food to an obsessive degree, and I have at times pondered why I pretty much prefer French to any other cuisine. Sometimes I joke that France is my first and greatest love. We're like an old married couple – there are certain aspects of France I absolutely disapprove of, but I'll continue to love the country no matter what. Rest assured, though, I won't only make French. But it will be a regular; every month, there will be breads, dinners or desserts from a particular region in France. Recipes from traditional regions and recipes from current regions. These are the kinds of food I like. They make me happy. (I just read that back to myself and realised how weird that sounds. Cooking is weird sometimes.)
The eastern region of Alsace is where this project starts. The Alsatian cuisine has been greatly influenced by Germany (having been part of Germany for most of its history before being annexed into France by Louis XIV in 1674, briefly returning to Germany from 1871-1914 and 1940-1944) and you'll find there's lots of cabbage, pork and sausages everywhere. Alsace was the first place I visited in France and every time I return I try to taste their regional cooking, including sauerkraut, männele and foie gras. But tarte flambée, or flammekueche in Alsatian, has got to be my favourite. It's the ultimate Alsatian comfort food – a thin, round dough topped with crème fraîche and bacon. Very popular in my house.
|Tarte flambée |
Recipe taken from here
250 g. flour
0.5 dl oil
140 g. bacon
40 g. butter
100 g. cottage cheese
1 dl. thick crème fraîche
1 tbsp oil
Salt and pepper
1.In a bowl, mix the flour, 1/2 tsp of salt, oil and 15 cl of warm water, little by little. Knead the dough until you're left with a firm dough and let rest for one hour. You want to have an elastic dough.
2.Preheat the oven to 250°C.
3.Cut the bacon into thin slices. Do the same with the onions. In a saucepan, fry the bacon and onion for about five minutes. They should not brown. In a small bowl, mix the cottage cheese and cream and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
4.On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin, large, round one-millimeter thick disks. Put the dough on a baking plate lined with baking paper. Spread the cottage cheese mixture on the dough using a spatula, then top with the onions and bacon. Sprinkle on the tablespoon of oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve crisp.