OK, let me first admit that I had to look up the word, too. Maybe a lighter especially designed for doobies? No. But there is some fire involved. Translated roughly from the German, flàmmeküeche means flame pastry. And there are at least five different spellings (and probably even more pronunciations) including the French tarte flambée. Being a guy who likes the simple life, I now just call it German pizza.
Restauranteurs are always looking for something new, something different to add to their menu. Something that will get people in the door for the first time and, even better, something that will get them back in the door, over and over again.
“I needed something to attract a bigger lunch crowd and I saw the success that other restaurants were having with things like tostadas, pizza and bagels”, Marco Massarotti, chef/owner of San Miguel restaurant, Casa Nostra, told me. “I liked flàmmeküeche, I thought; why wouldn’t everyone else like it.”
Marco told me a little about the dish’s history.
It comes from the Baden-Württemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz and Alsace (before Alsace was annexed by France) regions of Germany and was created, originally, to test whether wood-fired ovens were hot enough to bake bread. The original toppings for the thin crust dough were crème fraîche, onions and lardons but there have been many variations at different times and in different towns.
So has Marco Massarotti built a wood-fired oven, like another Marco did at the gone-but-not-forgotten, Fiamma?
Well, not exactly. Marco M. takes on projects the same way Don Day does. He types a-m-a-z… and guess what? The portable, propane-powered, Camp Chef Italia Artisan Pizza Oven works well. Very well.
“The pizza lifter and cutter came from Amazon, too”, Marco told me. “The oven gets up to 500 degrees which is plenty of heat for the flàmmeküeche.”
Marco has five different German pizzas…sorry flàmmeküeches…on his new luncheon menu. I was one of a few guinea pigs who had a taste of all of them last week.
The dough is quite simple, just flour, water and olive oil.
“It’s not even a special flour. No fancy Italian import. Straight off the shelf at La Comer”, Marco told us.
“There are only about 100 grams of dough in each one. You can feel good about eating these. There’s so few calories.”
The dough first goes into the oven without toppings for between 30 and 60 seconds. The pastry puffs up nicely like a good, thin-crust pizza.
It then goes back into the kitchen to be topped with crème fraiche and the rest of the ingredients and then returned to the oven to warm them up. The best examples were the ones with a tiny bit of char.
There’s something for almost everyone’s taste in the toppings.
One features smoked salmon, spring onions, arugula, lemons and caper powder.
Another has Gorgonzola, pancetta, caramelized onions and pears.
The Mexican includes chorizo, beans, cilantro, chile and avocado.
My favorite was the Parma ham, Parmesan, figs, arugula, chives and sherry.
I even liked the vegetarian with its potatoes, goat cheese, thyme, leeks and truffle oil.
Chef Marco had one other surprise for us. He’s added two more mains to his new menu that he calls polentitas, both featuring a crispy polenta toast. For the osso buco version, the chef shreds the veal away from the bones and tops it with cheese and parsley.
It’s going to be a tough decision deciding between it and the German pizza…sorry flàmmeküeche…at my next lunch at Casa Nostra. And there will definitely be another one. Soon.
Flàmmeküeche (and the polentitas) are available à la carte or as part of a prix fixe consisting of starter, main and a glass of wine at a very reasonable $385, but only from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, Tuesday through Thursday. Casa Nostra is located at Calle Terreplén 8, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.