Archive for September, 2007

September 21, 2007


Flammkuchen (Fr. Tarte Flambée) is something I remember eating for the first time with my family on a trip, fourteen years ago, to Strasburg in the Alsace region of France. Strasburg is a bilingual, though mostly French-speaking, city on the border between Germany and France, and is best known for its importance in European politics, hosting among other things the European Union’s Council of Europe. We were there as a family stopping over from a trip back from the Cevennes area (just north of the Provence) and wanted dinner badly. On family trips, dinner has always been a problem for us. Normally the process goes something like this: our blood sugar goes down, our pickiness goes up, we end up not being able to decide on anything to eat, and commonly someone ends up in tears.

Not this time. We went into a well-visited establishment, sat down outside, and my mother ordered us all Tarte Flambée (normally my mom doesn’t order for us all, but her French skills were the best and she knew what the local specialties were. Besides, my sister and I were probably still bickering due to our low blood sugar). We loved it as soon as we bit into it. The incredibly thin, crisp crust delicately covered with a layer of seasoned sour cream, some onions, and bacon were incredible. I don’t have any idea how many of these we ate, but it was quite a few. At the end of the evening the waitress simply tallied up how many we ate according to hatch marks she had made each time she brought us another “tart.”

Flammkuchen is also common in Germany, which is why it has a German name. It’s called by many other names as well, but most people recognize Flammkuchen even if they’re not from the southwest. Literally translated it means “Flame Cake,” and it is presumed that this comes from its original heritage as something put in to test the heat of the oven before baking bread and other foods.

It’s most popular in Germany just after the grape harvest, when the new wine, most popularly known as Federweißer, hits the market and is drunk. Federweißer is a wine that has just begun its first fermentation. The stage it is served in can vary from grape juice to a “young” white wine. The harvest season is beginning now, so restaurants across the Alsace and southwest Germany are beginning to offer Flammkuchen and Federweißer specials. I think the “new wine” is lighter than regular wine, and since its alcohol content is much lower you can drink a lot more. And of course, each time you have another glass you must have another Flammkuchen!


This is a recipe that doesn’t require any yeast, which I find prevents the crust from getting too thick. It’s extremely versatile, and you can put toppings other than the traditional on it. We’ve made it for a dinner party with toppings varying from Greek to Mexican. However, remember that it must be served fresh out of the oven, which may be difficult when serving guests and hosting at the same time. It’s also a nice, quick, thin pizza crust.

For dough:
250g (ca 2 cups) Flour
2.5 Tbsp Canola Oil
150ml (ca 2/3 cup) Water
Pinch of Salt

For toppings:
250g (ca. 1 cup) Crème Frâiche
1 onion (can be red or sweet onions)
1 Tbsp Butter
125g (ca. 1/4lb) Bacon
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 clove Garlic

Combine ingredients for crust. The dough shouldn’t be sticky. Slice onions into rings and sauté in butter until clear (don’t caramelize). Cook bacon until crisp. Finely chop garlic and add it with seasonings to the cream. Roll out the dough as thinly as possible and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. On the highest heat your oven will go (or around 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit) bake for around 10-15 minutes, or until the dough has begun to create bubbles and you see nice browning (you don’t want burnt!). You will have to keep an eye on this, baking it is an art and each oven is different so watch it carefully the first time you make it. Serve with a green salad and Federweißer or a light white wine (it doesn’t need to be sweet, a dry Riesling will do well, as will a Pinot Gris).

September 14, 2007

A New Home

As warned, I took a long hiatus from my posting. After a couple months of David and me being in a constant state of flux (moving out of Radeberg, traveling around Germany, flying to the States, working at yet another fantastic week of overnight International Language Camp, packing and moving to Boston, and settling and moving in to our new apartment and lives) I am finally back and ready to post about my experiences. I hope I haven’t lost all of you attentive readers, and please do spread the word that I have returned and am planning on being just as prolific as ever! Please do excuse this long post, as I have to make up for quite a bit of lost time.

Since getting to Boston I have been incredibly busy. David and I found an apartment quite quickly, and I was lucky to find a job working at Darwin’s, a sandwich/deli and café near Harvard Square, within a week of arriving. This has been quite nice, since moving in to my first apartment and buying furniture etc. is quite a daunting task! I’ve also been able to meet some great people in a wonderful work environment.

However, the main purpose of me moving to Boston, as I mentioned, is to begin my studies in Gastronomy. This website is of course my portal to what I am interested in in the Gastronomy world. It’s where I express my ideas and thoughts about it. While I have previously written largely and almost exclusively on German and American foods and cultures, I will have to extend this a bit now to include all of my studies at Boston University. Please do not be afraid, however! I will continue to post and write about traditional German/American food issues. However, I would also like to keep you all informed about my life at cooking school. Yes, I’m currently taking a one-semester hands-on intensive cooking course taught by several of the most prominent chefs in Boston (and the world!). I’ll keep you updated on what I’m learning, including pictures of the foods I create, including this wonderful vegetarian butternut squash soup.

Disclaimer: this is not my soup, my group’s turned quite thick by the time it hit the tasting portion of our class because it had cooled off. It tasted great however, as we accidentally used chicken stock instead of water. It wasn’t very vegetarian anymore though…

The Culinary Arts Certificate Program is the first class I am taking in my master’s program. In it we have a few core chefs who teach us the basic cooking skills and traditions. In addition we have many countless guest chefs come in and teach us their recipes and techniques. It’s a wonderful experience and a great way to learn about, and network in, the restaurant/food world. We just started this week, and I’m already invested and incredibly busy with it! We spend seven hours a day at school and have quite a bit of reading to do outside of class. I am also keeping a detailed journal (aside from the blog) typing up all my notes and reactions to each day’s events.

Every day we start out with a morning of lecture and demonstration. We assemble in the demonstration room with its classic set-up of mirrors to see into the pots and pans on the stove. We learn about the history, techniques, and tips of the topic of the day and see a demonstration. This isn’t necessarily what we’ll be cooking, though it sometimes is, but it’s also a demonstration of a certain technique (like making a roux) or how to make a different recipe in the same topic (for example on sauce day our chef, John Vyhnanek, showed us a quick pesto sauce and a tomato sauce). Often times we get to eat the demonstration foods, or leftovers from the day before that we have cooked, during our lunch break.

One of eight stations in the kitchens at BU, used both for the Culinary Arts Certificate Program and the School of Hospitality Administration

The afternoons are devoted to us students (there are only twelve of us) getting hands-on practice in cooking. Each day we make around three recipes or so, depending on the length and difficulty. We learn to work in teams and sub-groups, and each team of two has a student sous chef. The sous chef meets with our executive chef, this week John, and then is in charge of delegating jobs to the rest of the students. I have yet to be sous chef – when I’m not in the kitchen I really want to be sous chef, but once class is rolling I am happy I haven’t been chosen yet. I’m not really ready for that sort of thing. Not only do you have to have control and understanding of all the recipes being cooked, but you have to be able to plan ahead and delegate jobs as well. For now I’m much happier being told what to do when.

Our stock room, larger than my whole kitchen at home!

I’m miserable at getting my mise en place set up. The mise en place is French for “put in place” and refers to the prep work. Not only the chopping and measuring of ingredients into dishes for easy use during the cooking time, but also getting all the pots and utensils needed for all of the recipes. I don’t think I’m alone, but I frequently have to go to the stock room to get this or that thing I have forgotten. Or, like yesterday, I will look under my station during clean-up and find out I’ve stored a bunch of things under there only to have used a third of it during cooking!

I’m sure this will take practice and I will be able to figure everything out and feel more comfortable in the kitchen. Right now I’m really excited to just be here, to finally be following this dream. Living in Boston, so far, is great. The weather is wonderful (I know this won’t last) and I love being close to my college friends again. I miss Radeberg and teaching, especially the friends I made while I was there. However, I have been so busy here and I feel so welcomed here that I know this is the right place for me at this point in my life. Having David here with me and sharing our adventures together makes me even more confident that this was a good decision. Stay tuned for a quick-and-easy recipe to make a traditional flat bread/pizza from Southwest Germany/Southeast France as well as my experiences broiling, stewing, butchering, roasting and garnishing food as well as meeting famous chefs!