This week, we celebrated Veterans’ Day or the 96th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice of the First World War. For the occasion, the 196 flavors team visited the Picardy region in France.
As a large agricultural region and dairy farming land, Nord-Pas-de-Calais is the producer of a number of cheeses, including the iconic maroilles that is used in a variety of pies called flamiches in Picardy. Flamiche au maroilles is a culinary specialty of Thiérache and Avesnes and this is what I chose to prepare today.
Maroilles is one of the characteristic elements of the culture of the North of France. It owes its name to a small town of Avesnes with a large abbey where the first cheeses were ripened. The name of the ancient Gallic village was Maro-Ialo which means “large glade”.
The first traces of maroilles were found during the seventh century. It was called craquegnon then. In 1010, a charter was found that showed that maroilles was used for payment to the abbot of Landrecy.
An ordinance from 1174, l’Ecrit des Pâturages states that “all peasants with cows” of the region of Maroilles would have to transform the milk at St. John (June 24th) to deliver to the Abbey on the day of St. Remy (October 1st). This tax on “cow cheese” shows that at that time just like nowadays, three months were needed to get a good maroilles.
In 1245, thanks to the monks of the abbey of Cambrai, maroilles was introduced in the lord courts and then became a royal dish honored by many kings in the history of France, including Charles V and Philip Augustus.
Needless to say, maroilles was made famous in France thanks to Dany Boon’s blockbuster movie, Welcome to the Sticks (Bienvenue chez les ch’tis, released in 2008. This cheese has seen its sales grow by more than 30% over three years after the release of the movie!
But back to our flamiche which is also called flamique. The word, of Flemish origin, means “cake”. The recipe dates back to the Middle-Ages. In the past, it was a slab of dough that was tasted hot, sprinkled generously with melted butter. Later, it became a sort of tart, sweet or savory, and people began to add vegetables such as leeks, onions, pumpkin, endive or cheese as maroilles.
For the record, the legend says that flamiche was created thanks to a clever trick of a farmer from Romedenne (Franco-Belgian border).
Flamiche was born on a day when the woman went to Dinant with the products of her farm to sell at the market. She fell violently, and the content of her bag (butter, eggs, cream and cheese) got all mixed up. She ran to a friend who was baking her bread, she took a piece of dough and made a pie where she added all the mixed up ingredients from her bag and put everything in the oven.
My young son Ruben, baked cheese enthusiast, lives in Hong Kong. I prepared this flamiche while he was in Paris last month. Asia is definitely not the best continent to enjoy dairy products. Ruben was a very happy camper as he just loved it! Indeed, it was delicious!
Welcome to the Sticks!
This recipe is validated by our culinary expert in French cuisine, Chef Simon. You can find Chef Simon on his website Chef Simon – Le Plaisir de Cuisiner.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons dry yeast
- ½ cup warm milk
- 4 tbsp soft butter
- 3 eggs (including one for the dough)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 oz. maroilles
- ¾ cup creme fraiche
- 2 pinches salt
- Dissolve the yeast in warm milk.
- Make a well in the flour and pour the milk / yeast mixture, one egg, and melted butter.
- Mix and knead slightly until getting an elastic dough.
- Upon formation of the dough, add the salt and knead for 3 minutes. Form a ball.
- Cover the dough and let rise for one hour at room temperature and away from drafts.
- Preheat oven to 410 F.
Roll out the dough and place on a 12" tart pan.
- Prick the dough, cover and let it rise again for 10 more minutes.
- Meanwhile, beat the two remaining eggs and the creme fraiche. Add salt and pepper.
- Spread ¾ of this mixture over the dough, add slices of maroilles, and pour over the last quarter of the egg and creme fraiche mixture.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.