I know a good handful of people who’ve traveled to France in the past few months; in my French class alone three people, including my teacher, have visited Paris and other amazing cities in the country. Unfortunately my own plans to travel there have yet to come to fruition but all of the unbelievable stories I have recently heard have me itching to get there more than ever. Though I’ve been lucky enough to hear several accounts of trips to the country, all different but equally dreamy, I’m beginning to have the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” complex regarding French travel.
A few weeks ago, upon his return from his trip, my French teacher brought a stack of material out of a giant briefcase and reviewed with me maps, guidebooks, and brochures of the amazing places he visited in just over a week in France. Using a guide to the restaurants of Paris, he showed me the places he ate and described for me in detail his meals, which sounded très délicieux. The visions of fresh fish in butter and herbs; sweet, pillowy macarons; and carafes of red wine have had me craving the tastes of France ever since. Even more so, I’ve been itching to expand my repertoire of French recipes.
Bistrot La Minette, a French restaurant located on 6th Street between South and Bainbridge, does an excellent job of bringing authentic French flavors to Philadelphia and the ambience adds to the experience – they have a beautiful, romantic outdoor garden with seating underneath white string lights that makes you forget you’re only several blocks away from the kitschy South Street shops. Of all the unbelievable things I’ve tried there my favorite is their Flammenküche, a rustic French pizza with crème fraîche, onions and lardons (thinly sliced, small strips of bacon). This grilled version of the dish, with homemade crème fraîche, is a great way to incorporate outdoor cooking with French flair.
½ cup of heavy cream
1 Tablespoon of buttermilk
In a glass bowl, mix together heavy cream and buttermilk. Let sit on counter for 12 – 24 hours, covered, until the consistency is thick.
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
2 ½ Tablespoons of Canola oil
2/3 cup of water
¼ pound of thick-cut bacon, cut into small matchsticks
½ cup of crème fraîche
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Combine flour, oil and water in a medium bowl and mix to form a dough. On a floured work surface, roll dough into a ball and let rest, covered, for 1 hour. In the meantime, cook bacon until edges are just turning crispy. Remove onto paper towels to absorb grease. Sauté the onions until translucent. Roll the dough out to approximately ¼ inch thick, in a roughly formed rectangle or oval shape. Lightly grease the grill with olive oil and turn heat on low. Place dough on grill and cook on one side for about 10 minutes, keeping an eye on the bottom as to not burn it. Remove, flip over, and top cooked side with crème fraîche, spread to ½ -inch of the edge, onions and bacon. Place back on grill and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove and place on a cutting board and cut pieces into desired sizes.
Though the recipe is simple and the majority of the process is quick, the homemade crème fraîche tacks on at least a half a day’s worth of time. It’s pretty neat, though, to mix the cream and buttermilk in the morning and come home from work and have a tangy, thick mixture. Still, if you plan on making Flammenküche and forget to make the crème fraîche first a perfect substitute would be room temperature, plain Greek yogurt.
Onions and bacon will forever be one of my favorite teams of two, and they don’t disappoint in this dish. The crème fraîche adds a smooth velvety flavor, while the sweetness of the onions and thick, salty bacon do their trick to officially become the best pizza toppings ever. I personally love the addition of whole wheat flour to add a grainy texture and earthy flavor, but two cups of all-purpose is just fine. The oven would be just as good a heat source to cook this recipe, but the grill creates a thin, crunchy crust that rivals brick oven pizza.
Instead of ordering out on your next busy weeknight, consider making this grilled pizza. Paired with a fresh, green salad and a cold glass of white wine, it becomes a substantial meal that may just bring your burning desire to travel to France to a gentle simmer, for now. If I can’t go there yet, I may as well bring France to Fishtown.