Some years ago, through the wonders of internet newsgroups, we were able to do an apartment-exchange with a travel-writer based in Paris. While we spent most of our time exploring and living in this city, we made a few day-trips to other parts of France. One of them was to Strasbourg, the "capital" of Alsace. We stayed mostly in the old part of town, enjoying its quaint architecture, romantically strolling by the canals and feasting on Alsatian specialties at one of the local - but definitely touristic - restaurants. Without doubts, our favorite Alsatian dish (indeed, the only one we can remember) was baekeoffe , a stew consisting of 3 types of meat, potatoes, herbs and wine slowly cooked on a earthenware pot in a special oven. On return, we tried to make this dish at home but the results were never quite satisfactory.
That one meal in Strasbourg, however, woke our interest in Alsatian food so I was very excited to arrive to Alsace in my quest to learn about international cuisines. Alsatian food is particularly interesting because it shows strong French and German influences; while Alsace is Germanic in both language and customs it has belonged to France since the 15th century. Some of our favorite foods are Alsatian in origin, Munster cheese, pate de foie-grass and Riesling wine among them. Most Alsatian dishes, however, are not as well known in this country.
I thought long and hard as to what to make for my Alsatian evening. There were many of choices, several of which sounded very appetizing. For an appetizer I decided almost immediately to make tarte flambe, a type of pizza, as it is an Alsatian specialty and it sounded really good. The choice for an entree was more difficult. Alsace's most typical dish is probably Choucroute Garnie, a casserole of sauerkraut with sausages, pork and apples. When I was a kid, my grandmother used to make (German) choucroute for special occasions and it became a special favorite of mine - much more because of its connection to my grandmother than for the taste of the dish. Indeed, my dad reminded me of how as a kid I became very excited when we found a restaurant that served the dish - but I totally hated it when we ordered it. So while I was tempted to cook chocroute myself, I finally decided that without my grandmother's touch I wouldn't like it, and began looking for something else. My second choice was a succulent goose recipe, a typical dish served in Alsace for Christmas. However, one of my guests for dinner dislikes goose so I had to look for something else. I finally decided on cooking Chicken Riesling, as it seemed simple and safe enough. I accompanied this with poppy seed noodles, another Alsatian specialty.
For dessert I decided to make a fruit tart, as these are very common in Alsace. There were many choices, but I finally decided on an apple tart with hazelnuts because my husband really likes apples. The tart ended up tasting pretty much like apple pie, however, so I probably wouldn't make it again. I served it with vanilla ice-cream but another interesting, and authentic, alternative would be to use cinnamon ice-cream.
The menu I ended up serving was:
French bread with pate de foie-grass
Tarte Flambe or Alsatian pizza
Poulet au Riesling
Chicken with Riesling, served with:
Nouilles a l'Alsacienne
Alsatian poppy seed noodles
Apple Hazelnut Tart
served with (store bought) vanilla ice-cream.
Alsatian Food Links