Recipes from Alsace

Alsace is a small region in northeastern France bordering Germany and Switzerland. My main draw to it has been Alsatians passion for food as well their white wine, Gewutsraminer.

Their wine route goes through well preserved medieval villages with houses painted in pretty pale colours and windows filled with flowers.

Its proximity to Germany has influenced  ingredients in the dishes and their taste. Their food is very rich and pork is very often used as an ingredient. Tarts are  an important part of their sweet specialities.

I will write about other recipes from this region, but for this menu I chose Baeckeoffe, potato and meat casserole (picture doesn’t do justice to this dish, it is one of those recipes that tastes better than it looks). Baeckeoffe often includes pig feet(which adds the gelatinous consistency) but you can skip that ingredient.To complete the menu I prepared an onion soup, and a sweet plum tart, considering that plum season is in a full swing. I made pate sucre as the base of the tart. Pate sucre is a pastry that is used mainly to make tart cases or flans.

I served onion soup in small bowls.The key to a great tasting onion soup is to cook the onions really slow, until they become very soft and light brown in colour.

Baeckeoffe

serves 6

  • 500g lamb shoulder
  • 500g pork shoulder
  • 500g beef shoulder /chuck
  • 1kg /2 lb potato
  • 1leek (white part only)
  • 200g carrots
  • 1 big onion
  • 1 clove of garlic, lightly crushed
  • salt
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1 bouquet garni (spring of fresh thyme, parsley stalk, one bay leaf and celery stalk 5 cm long)
  • 1/2 bottle of Riesling

  1. Make bouquet garni(classic herb combination for stews and soups). Tie the spring of thyme, bay leaf and few parsley stalks in the groove of 5 cm/2 in of celery stalk with a kitchen string.
  2. Finely slice onions, garlic and leek into small rounds. Peel the carrot and slice into rounds.
  3. Cut the meat into 4cm / 1-1/2 in squares.
  4. Put the meat with leek, onion, garlic and bouquet garni into a plastic container or zip log bag.
  5. Add pinch of salt, peppercorns and  half of the wine.
  6. Refrigerate for  12 hours.
  7. The next day preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
  8. Peel the potatoes and slice into rounds.
  9. Remove the marinade from the refrigerator.
  10. Strain the marinade over a bowl ( don’t discard the liquid).
  11. Put half of potatoes into casserole dish.
  12. Add the strained content and finish with a layer of sliced potatoes and  some carrots. Pour over  marinade liquid from the bowl 2cm below the top layer of potatoes. Add more wine or water if needed. Cover with a lid and sealit with a thick layer of aluminum foil made into rope and shape around the casserole dish and lid.
  13. Original method calls for a seal made of  flour paste. Mix 140g /1 cup of flour with enough water to make a paste. Roll it into a rope long enough to wrap around the casserole.Press against the join between the lid and the dish.
  14. Bake for 3 hours.

Serve it with a simple green salad and the slice of bread. Casserole always tastes better the next day.

Onion soup

serves 4

  • 500g onions (about 4 medium)
  • 5og butter
  • 1 litres brown stock / 4 cups
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 4 slices of bread
  • Gruyere cheese

Slice onions into rounds.

Melt the butter in a pan and add the onions. Using a wooden spoon stir them to coat them with the butter. Reduce heat to low and slowly simmer untill very soft and golden brown. It can take 60 min, or longer.

Add the stock, pinch of salt and stir. Bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.

Cut the  bread into small slices, cover them with grated cheese and put in  oven until bread is toasted and cheese melts.To serve  pour the soup into small balls and arrange the toasted slices of bead with melted cheese .

Plum tart

20cm tart tin

Pate sucre:

  • 150g flour
  • 75g butter (room temperature)
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 2 yolks (room temperature)
  • salt
  • 2-3 drops of vanilla essence

Filling:

  • 300g dark plums, just ripe but still firm
  • 70g granulated sugar
  • 140ml water
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds

Glase:

  • 160 g appricot jam
  • 2 teaspoon water

All ingredients have to be at room temperature.

Sift the flour and salt.

In a food processor with a paddle attachment mix the butter, sugar and vanilla extract.

Add the beaten eggs and mix until incorporated.

Add the sifted flour in stages and as soon as dough detaches from the bowl stop (it will make clumps ).

Press clumps together and form a ball.

If using two smaller tins split the pastry in two parts.

Wrap it into cling film and leave in refrigerator for one hour.

Place the flan tin on a baking sheet.

Take the pastry out of the refrigerator and  let it stand at room temperature for 10-15min to soften.

On a lightly floured surface roll pastry in-between two sheets of clingfilm or parchment paper.

Roll in one direction until 3 mm thick and 5 cm larger than the tin. If you use bigger tin roll the pastry slightly thicker.

Transferring the pastry to the tin can be a little tricky but with practice it will become easier.

Wrap the pastry loosely around the rolling pin. Carefully unroll the pastry allowing it to settle easily into the tin. Don’t pull the pastry or it will break. Press the pastry against the side  and base of the tin. If you need to patch it press the tears with your fingers.

Roll the rolling pin over the tin. Rolling pin will cut the excess dough. You can use the excess and roll it in a bowl and cover with a cling film. Put it into freezer and use later to make smaller tarts.

Put the pastry case into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.

Take the pastry out of the refrigerator. Line the pastry case with the baking parchment. Fill it with baking beans. You can also use dried beans.

Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 10 minutes, until the pastry is dry and lightly golden in colour. Carefully take the baking beans and the paper out of the tart case and lower the temperature to 180C. Return pastry to the oven for another 5 minutes watching that the pastry doesn’t turn brown.

Leave to cool on the rack.

Wash and cut the plums into quarters.

Make the light sugar syrup. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and on low heat dissolve the sugar. Bring to boil and continue boiling for about 3-4 minutes until it thickens slightly; put the plumsand let it cool.

Sprinkle ground almonds into a tart case. This will prevent pastry from becoming soggy. Then arrange the plums over it.

Bake on 180C for about 30 minutes or until fruit softens.

To make a glaze place the jam with the water in a pan and melt over low heat. Sieve. Using a pastry brash dab it over the tart.

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