Quarantine Cuisine: How Le Sélect Bistro chef Laura Maxwell makes her cheesy, bacon-y tarte flambée
We’re asking Toronto chefs to show us what they cook up using basic pantry supplies while they self-isolate at home
Like many of us, Le Sélect Bistro chef Laura Maxwell is spending a lot of time at home. We asked the social-distancing chef to whip something up with ingredients she already had on hand. Her recipe: a tarte flambée that will transport you to Alsace.
Tarte flambée has been chef Laura Maxwell’s go-to comfort food while in quarantine. “It’s a classic savoury tart with a satisfying combo of tangy cheese, smoky bacon, sweet onions and earthy thyme, all on a crispy flatbread. It comes from Alsace, and due to its historic French and German cultural influences, it is also commonly known as flammekueche.” Maxwell says the dish’s German name is rather fitting. “Flammekueche literally translates to ‘flame cake,’ so of course my overly sensitive smoke detector goes off every time I make it.”
Maxwell was tinkering with this recipe for a while in hopes of debuting it on Le Sélect’s summer menu, but as restaurants aren’t yet open for dine-in service, she wanted to share it so anyone can make it at home. Maxwell says she’s aware that cream cheese and sour cream aren’t used in the classic recipe, and this was intentional. “Considering that we’re still staying at home as much as possible, I wanted to use pantry staples or ingredients that could be easily sourced.” If you happen to have access to fromage blanc and crème fraîche, then feel free to get fancy. Note: this recipe makes four flatbreads.
For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp room temperature water
For the cheese spread:
200g or approximately ¾ cup full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp full-fat sour cream
2 tbsp buttermilk
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the toppings:
1 medium Vidalia onion
12 strips of thick-sliced smoked bacon
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
Fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
Move an oven rack to the highest placement under the broiler. If you have a pizza stone, place it on the rack. If you don’t, a sturdy baking sheet turned upside down works just as well. Preheat your oven to 550°F.
To make the dough, put all ingredients into a large bowl and stir until it’s a shaggy mess. Transfer it to a lightly floured work surface and knead for one minute until it comes together into a ball. Cover the dough ball with a towel or plastic wrap and set it aside at room temperature while you prepare your remaining toppings.
For the cheese spread, put the softened cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat for 20 seconds at medium speed until smooth. Add in the buttermilk, sour cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix it all for another 30 seconds until smooth and combined. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside at room temperature.
It’s topping time! Peel, quarter and slice your onion into very thin slices and set aside.
Pick the thyme leaves off their tough stems, lightly chop and set aside.
Cut your bacon strips into quarter-inch strips and—you guessed it—set them aside.
Add half your thyme leaves and one tablespoon of olive oil to the onions; give a light toss to coat evenly.
Now, cut four pieces of parchment paper, each measuring 10 by 16 inches.
Equally divide your dough into four balls. Then, using a rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface, roll the first one into an oval measuring eight by 14 inches. Transfer each one to a pre-cut sheet of parchment paper.
Lightly prick the dough with the tines of a fork. This will help prevent large air bubbles from forming during baking.
Add a quarter of the cheese mixture and spread over the surface, leaving about a quarter-inch border.
And then top it with some sliced onions and bacon.
Place your tarte on a spare upside-down baking sheet (or pizza peel, if you have one), then carefully slide it onto the hot baking sheet (or pizza stone) that’s already in the oven. That’s why the parchment paper is underneath, to help it transfer easily.
After five minutes, rotate your baking sheet or pizza stone 180° degrees. Let it cook for another three minutes or so. Then, turn the broiler on for one to two minutes until the topping is golden-brown and bubbly.
Remove from the oven and finish with freshly grated black pepper and a pinch of fresh thyme.
Eat immediately. Maxwell recommends an Alsatian riesling or your favourite local Ontario cider to pair with it.
Even Maxwell’s cat, Darwin, approves.