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Need apps and dessert for Alsatian dinner.

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We are entertaining senior colleagues for the first time in a week or two. We're making choucroute garnie (sauerkraut cooked with wine, spices, potatoes and a variety of smoked meats) from a recipe I've made many times. We'll also serve homemade dark bread and mustard and no doubt some good beer. It's a heavy meal, but I'd still like to have a few nibbles out to start. So far all I'm planning is radishes with sweet butter and salt (for dipping). I also need a dessert-- something elegant and light. I'm not going for a super wow-factor-- something that isn't trying too hard, but that is delicious and fits with the meal. A fun apertif would also be great. I'd love any ideas you might have!

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  1. For dessert I suggest a fruit tart. Plum tart is typical in the fall, but apple will always be good, especially if you throw in a handful of cranberries to up the tartness factor. Serve with crème fraîche. Can't help you with appetizers. They are my most hated part of meal planning.

    1. Alsatian apple cake ...

      1. The classic Alsatian app is tarte flambe or flammekuchen depending on what language you're going with :-)

        This can be either a puff pastry base or a bread base topped with something creamy, bacon and onions. They would use fromage blanc ... i've improvised w a number of things. Andre Saltner's [sp?] recipe was one of my faves; he put cottage cheese in the food processor with creme fraiche if I recall. It was in a Julia Child book . . . Julia and the Master Chefs or something? It was a squarish paperback with a lot of red on the cover.

        I see lots of recipes with raw onions on the top but I can't imagine they'd be as nice as those that have been gently sweated with thick-cut pieces of bacon or lardons.

        1. For app: a very simple leaf salad with pumpkin seed oil dressing would be great. It's also known as Kurbiskernoel. You could also do a savory Flammekuche, but risk being a bit heavy with the rest of the meal: http://www.marga.org/food/int/alsace/...

          A small platter of cornichons would not be out of place, along with maybe some cheese, fig jam, and crackers.

          For dessert: this rhubarb tart sounds delicious: http://onewholeclove.typepad.com/one_...

          1. I forgot you asked about an aperitif. The Aperol Spritzer is popular in Germany, so I imagine it wouldn't be too out of place in Alsace (but who knows):

            http://www.ehow.com/how_5254564_make-...

            Here in Berlin, it's usually made with still white wine, rather than sparkling. It's very tasty and helps to get the appetite going.

            You could also do a kir or kir royal (with cassis or Chambord). I personally like sweet martini vermouth (bianco) over ice with lots of lemon slices, but that might be more Italian.

            1. There are two classic onion tartes, the flammekuche (as I recall, in Alsatian dialect, not standard German) and the tarte à l'oignon or zweibelkuche (once again by memory) which is more like a quiche though the filling is different.

              Good beer, of course, but also some of the white wines for which Alsace is so famous (as are the southwestern German regions across the Rhine).

              1. Re desserts, procrastibaker...another dessert that is customary in the Alsace, dating a few centuries back to traders first bringing spices up the Rhine, and whose flavors I think would fit your choucroute garnie...gingerbread. You could serve it simply with whipped cream, honey or cinnamon ice cream; or do a gingerbread roll filled with a semi-freddo with a passed honey-spice sauce; or top slices with apple, cherry or plum compote (or some combination), since those fruits are typical.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Normandie

                  gingerbread roll sounds amazing. nice.

                  1. re: ChristinaMason

                    And really not difficult to make, at all.

                    The thing is, there are many desserts that could be simply made that could combine the favorite flavors of Alsace-Lorraine...apples and the stone fruits, the spices, so forth.

                2. Okay this is cheating, but if you have a Trader Joe's near you, they have a great Tarte D'Alsace in their frozen section. Flaky pastry topped with creme fraiche, carmelized onions, gruyere and ham. It's very tasty.

                  Here's a page with a review and photo:
                  http://heateatreview.com/2009/10/12/t...

                  That pretty exhausts my knowledge of all things Alsatian. :)

                  1. Well, now you've made me nostalgic . . . some of my happiest memories are of Alsace, many, MANY years ago.

                    Anyway, I remembered that I have a cookbook: A Taste of Alsace, by Sue Style. She went around getting recipes from chefs in Alsace (including Emile Jung from La Crocodile, where I had several great meals many years ago.)

                    There is an appetizer recipe for Tartelettes Flambees, using puff pastry, fromage blanc and a bit of bacon.

                    But flipping through the book (and whimpering a little), I paused at the chapter entitled "Foie Gras". Of course. You can't do an Alsatian dinner without foie gras, and it's perfect for an appetizer. If you can get original Strasbourg pate, does anybody really care if it comes on a saltine? : ) Okay, maybe not a saltine, but I wonder how a little puff pastry stuffed with pate?

                    For an aperitif, I don't know, maybe Kirsche or Poire William? My favorite, I remember, was Kir or Creme de Cassis.

                    So, for dessert, how about fruit topped with some eau de vie? Is that too simple? Maybe with some cheese before?

                    Would you please tell us how it goes?

                    1. Hi all. Thanks so much for all of the great suggestions! Even if I don't use them for this meal, I will in the future. The flammekuchen and gingerbread roll ideas are great. After I posted this I found a recipe in my Pie and Pastry Bible for Weincreme Apple Tart. Technically Swiss, but it combines some Alsatian flavors (the pastry creme is infused with white wine-- in this case Riesling, but still...). And it's quite pretty. I'm still not sure on apps-- maybe a cold platter with the radishes, some cornichons and some homemade crackers. The meal is just so heavy... But the idea of foi gras is tempting :)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Procrastibaker

                        It sounds like a great meal.

                        I think, here in America, we see scenes set in France where people lounge in cafes all day or sit at table, and yes, they do make time for that. But they're also a hard-working people (vines don't grow themselves and bread-making is sweat work!). I would imagine a dish like cassoulet came from the agricultural roots of Alsace, and the strong German influence that makes that wonderful region so unique.

                        Thank you for reminding me of wonderful times.