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Friday, May 3, 2013

Tarte Flambée,Tarte Flambe, Flammekueche or Flammen Kuechen; Alsace’s Signature Slow Fast Food.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated January 2018

A tarte flambée.
The traditional tarte flambée or flammekueche
Tarte flambées have been made in the Alsace for at least one hundred years.  International tourism’s enormous growth than began some seventy or so years ago brought this family dish into local restaurants. The original tarte is a rolled out, very thin, pâte à pain, bread dough, covered with crème fraîche and a soft white cheese. In the Alsace, this is usually a local cheese called bibeleskaes. Over the cheese are spread thinly sliced onions and lardons, smoked or fried bacon bits and then it will be baked in a wood-burning oven for about ten minutes and served.

Tarte Flambée Forestière
A traditional tarte flambée with added Champignons de Paris
Tourists, including French tourists, have changed the size of the portions.  Most restaurants now offer tarte flambées, in small and large sizes. The small size makes an excellent entrée, the French first course, or a with a salad a light lunch. A large tarte flambée will be the plat, the French main course. Dessert versions of tarte flambée come with fruit, often with a taste of a strong eau-de vie, a fruit brandy, and some may have ice cream added just before serving.  Tarte flambée, the French name, remains the name most often used in English as there is no other accepted English name. Menus may offer Tarte Flambée Salée ou Sucrée, which indicates that both savory and sweet versions are available. The options are endless, but a few of the favorites are noted below:
A sign for an “all you can eat” tarte flambée menu.
Photograph courtesy of picnic
Tarte flambée, flammekueche, on French menus.
Tarte Flambée Classic or Nature, Traditionnelle or à l’Ancienne -   These names indicate a tarte flambée made with the traditional recipe.
Tarte Flambée au Magret de Canard Fumé  - A traditional tarte flambée with added slices of smoked duck breast.
Tartes Flambées au Feu de Bois - Tarte flambées cooked in a traditional wood burning oven.
Tarte flambée in a wood-burning oven
Photograph courtesy of Romain Decker.
Tarte Flambée aux Bananes Flambée au Rhum – A banana dessert tarte flambéed with rum.  A dessert tarte flambée flambéed with rum. Dessert versions of tarte flambée like this one were created much later than the traditional versions. Tourists brought with them a taste for restaurant theatre.  The tarte flambée dessert versions now often include a brandy or an eau-de-vie, which will be, flambéed,  set alight in front of the diner; shades of Crepe Suzette!
For more about Crêpe Suzette click here.

La Tarte Flambée aux Pommes, Flambée à l'Alcool de Quetsches –  An apple, dessert tart, flambéed with the plum eau-de-vie, brandy,  made from the Alsace and Lorraine's famous quetsche plums.  Like all other plums this plumb’s origin is Asian, and like many other French fruits reached France, Germany, Spain and the UK with the Romans.  The quetsche plum is, in fact, a German cross and in Germany is called a Zwetsche.

Pear tarte flambée.
For the citizens of the regions of Alsace and Lorraine, this plum is a native son. The quetche is a mauve to almost black plum has fragrant and sweet yellow flesh; it is oval shaped with nearly pointed ends; its nearest UK relation is the damson plum which is not as sweet.  In season, these plums are on sale all over France, and out of season, you may request, for a digestif, the 40% alcohol quetsche eau-de vie.
A quetsche eau-de-vie
Photograph courtesy of sashafatcat
Tarte Flambée: Formule à Partir de 6 Personnes par  Table: Tartes Flambées à Volonté Salée, Sucrée et Salade à Volonté - An all you can eat option on the menu for a group of six or more, with all the optional extras included;  who can ask for anything more! The offer is accompanied by an all you can eat salad. N.B. The salads served with tarte flambées are usually mixed green salads so, unless noted on the menu, do not expect anything more.

Choose your tarte flambée
Photograph courtesy of notfrancoise
Tarte Flambée Gratinée à l'Emmental/ Gruyère/MunsterSalade Verte Mélangée (Supplément par Personne) –  A traditional tarte flambée baked with added French Emmental, Gruyere or Munster cheese. A mixed green salad is offered with a per person surcharge.
Tarte Flambée Moitié/Moitié ... C'est vous qui Composez  - Moitié-moitié means half and half; and no, this tarte flambé is not made with that American coffee cream!  Here, moitié-moitié is on the menu for a tarte flambée made to your order with two different additions. Moitié-moitié is also what you say, in French, when you ask for two different dishes to be split between two diners; each diner will have one half of the other's meal.
The wine to accompany your tarte flambée.
Order Alsatian wine with your tarte flambée, and you may enjoy the perfect light Alsatian lunch or dinner. Choose a white two or, at most, three-year-old semi-dry Alsatian Gewürztraminer or a white semi-dry Alsatian Pinot Gris, and you will not regret it.      The Alsace has some of the best white wines in France.

The traditional wine glass used for Alsatian wines.
The history of the tarte flambée.
Some guide books call a tarte flambée an Alsatian pizza; however, those who wrote that obviously know zero about pizza and zero about tarte flambé. Tarte flambée and pizza are entirely different dishes and have different histories, different doughs, and the tarte flambée has no tomatoes and no mozzarella in its history.
The Alsace together with région of the Lorraine were, over hundreds of years, ruled by France and or Germany in turn.  The result today is while the Alsace and the Lorraine are indisputably French a large percentage of the locals also speak German dialects along with perfect French.  Flammen kuechen is one of the names for a tarte flambée in the Alsatian-German dialect called Allemand Alsacien or Elsässerditsch; the words mean cooked in flames in English. The French name tarte flambée has the same meaning.

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Bryan G. Newman

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