In the dialect spoken in Alsace, flammekueche means ''cooked in the flames''; the French flambee has a similar meaning. One of my dear customers described it like this: "If a pizza and a crepe had a baby, it would be a tarte flambee!" Whatever it's called, tarte flambee is to northern Alsace what pizza is to southern Italy.
It starts with bread dough rolled out fine as a crepe. This dough is spread with creme fraiche, a thick soured cream mixed with a delicate fresh white cheese called fromage blanc. It is seasoned with salt and pepper, and then thinly sliced white onions and bacon cut like matchsticks go on top.
The heat in the oven is so intense that in less than few minutes the tarte emerges still supple, yet blistered at the edges, with the topping of cream and cheese the color of old ivory. Tarte flambee originated with peasants of the Bas Rhin, and is a specialty in the area from Strasbourg, Alsace.
It began to get popular some 20 years ago, and now every village on the outskirts of Strasbourg seems to have one, if not two or three, simple restaurants featuring tarte flambee. Many of them are open only on weekends.
On Sundays you will see three and even four generations of one family gathered around a table, the smallest children drawing pictures on the paper tablecloth, while the waitress brings tarte after tarte followed by carafes of young white wine. “Everybody from the high boss to the worker goes to eat tarte flambee”.