Saturday, December 01, 2007

flavours from the south of france

nothing says southern france more than la pissaladière. the amalgamation of bold flavours make this well-known "pizza" a winner in my books. of course, it helps that i love anchovies, caramelized onions and olives.

salty, sweet, briny and herbal, this is a perfect mix of flavours especially when served alongside a green salad, mixed with arugula or watercress, and some bold red wine.

the following recipe is a very simple one and comes from my father's family. i remember this being something special since it took a bit of work to prepare. while it is not terribly labour-intensive, it does involve cooking the onions for up to 2 hours (depending on how many onions one is cooking). luckily, one doesn't need to hover over the stove for the cooking time. all it really requires is a stir every once in a while.

pissaladière is great to take along for, or serve at, cocktail or dinner parties where it can be cut into small squares. a little goes a long way as it is intensely flavoured. when made well, it is also beautiful to look at. i have seen versions including goat cheese or minus the anchovies. abomination! pissaladiere includes these little fish .... always.

if you don't eat them, for whatever reason, you can leave them out and make a vegetarian version. i'd include something salty to replace them, like perhaps a crumbled halloumi cheese. if you're follwing a vegan diet, use some mashed up chinese black beans as a substitute. don't go mental using too much though or you'll end up with a sodium disaster! ;)

note that i am making it in a jelly roll type pan since i made it for a function i was attending and needed precise measurement. the real way to do is to separate the dough into two parts and pull it out into an oblong and flatten it. the edges will be a bit thicker like that of a pizza. it is filled as shown below. either way works well.

bon appétit!

pissaladière — provençal style anchovy pizza


1 batch basic pizza dough

8 medium-large onions
4 tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves (feuilles de laurier)
1 tsp dried thyme or 2 - 3 tbsp fresh [or 1 tsp herbes de provence]
2 tsp sugar

1 pkg (2 oz) anchovies, packed in oil
1 to 2 ripe tomatoes (optional but good)
salt and pepper
1 handful of black olives (niçoise, kalamata or oil cured) -- pit them all

1 tbsp capers, optional

use an 11 3/8 x 7 3/8 inch (44,13 x 28,89 cm) jellyroll type pan.


make the dough. see this post on instructions how and for the recipe.

while the dough is rising, prepare the onions.

peel and clean up the 8 onions. this is not a job for those of you who suffer when chopping onions! chopper beware!! :)

cut each onion in half and cut coarsely or cut into half moon shapes, thinly. either is acceptable.

place olive oil and the bay leaves in a pan and place it over low heat. this is very important. do NOT cook it over medium or high heat.

add the onions and the herbs. mix well.

cover the pot with the lid and cook for up to 2 hours. it may take 1 1/2 hours but the onions should be somewhat brown-ish once finished cooking.

you will notice half way through cooking that they will have only wilted. this is normal. at this point, add the 2 tsp of sugar and stir again. this will help the browning process. it takes a lonnnnng time. you will also see that there is much liquid released. this will disappear in the following step.

at the end of the cooking time, remove the lid and increase the heat to medium high. cook until the liquid evaporates.

set the onions aside to cool in a bowl.

preheat your oven to 450 about a 1/2 hour before you are going to bake.

take the dough which has proved as a whole piece and place it on a parchment paper. do NOT punch it down and form it into a ball. this is totally unnecessary and is in many a recipe's instructions. it only seizes up the gluten and makes rolling more difficult and causes you to have to wait for it relax again.

with your hands spread the dough out into a rough rectangle.

roll it out into an 11 x 7 inch rectangular shape.

place the whole thing in the jelly roll pan. stretch it out to the edges. try to make it as even as possible. if you are lucky to have a pin that fits inside the pan, roll it out in there. it will result in a perfect rectangle.

place the onion mix in the center of the dough.

now spread it out very evenly with a spatula.
remove the bay leaves and discard them. after spreading them evenly, salt and pepper the surface.

take the anchovies, one by one, and make a design with them over the onions. often the typical design is a cross-hatch. my family makes it as shown here.

place the olives over the onions and anchovies. make SURE they are all pitted. nothing is worse than cracking your tooth on an olive pit! it's also more refined to use pitted ones.

at this point, you can add capers if you like and even bake the pissaladière now (as is commonly done). we add sliced tomatoes. make sure they are thinly sliced.

bake the whole for 40 to 45 minutes. lower the oven to 350 F after 10 minutes.

serve warm or at room temperature.



TopChamp said...

that does look delicious. There's a good layer of onions on it I see - which would stop it being dry. I am not sure about anchovies... only tried them a couple of times.

burekaboy — said...

hiya TC - thanks :) anchovies are a bit of an acquired taste, i guess. this version is in no way dried out, in fact, it's nice and moist. you can make this without the anchovies, of course, but then it can't be called pissaladière! ;) the real one, at least. thanks for the comment.

sarita said...

qué rico! esto se parece mucho a la coca de encanta la mezcla de cosas y el tomate fresco que suaviza las anchoas.tienes que probar un bocadillo de pan francés, anchoas(españolas!) y tomate crudo.delicioso y contundente.definitivamente tu alma es mediterranea ;)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your beautiful pissaladière looks mighty gorgeous! I love anything that contains onions, anchovies and/or olives...



burekaboy — said...

sari - debes probar esto "coca" francés un día. perfect for a nice lunch or entertaining. me gusta mucho la mezcla de las anchoas y las cebollas (fritas) juntas. le gusta a J comer todo estas cosas tambien? sabes que hacemos un cosa con el pan francés (tostado) con ají crudo y tomate? pienso que es una cosa de catalunya. you rub it on the toast and it breaks down.

rosa - tu sais, quand j'étais jeune, je détestais tous ces goûts. trop salé, trop amère, etc. mais maintenant, YUM!! :))

Anonymous said...

Hi There,

Yummy! But something crucial missing here, spice territory. Traditionnaly, in Marseille / Provence, homemade or bakery fashion includes mixed spices mainly cloves (with a hint o cinnamon, muscade, ginger)... Should be spread on dough as a mixed "olive oil - anchovy paste-cloves powder" before covering with onion spread.

Traditionnaly Pissaladiere stands for "Pissalat Bread or Tart", Pissalat being the spicy fish mix /fish marinade itself :)

As I said before, Yummy! ;)

From France,

burekaboy — said...

hi muhan - you're right ;) i forgot to include that part about the spices. my family never puts it, so i kind of completely overlooked it! je dois ajouter les epices tradionelles la prochaine fois. j'imagine que c'est encore mieux avec cette melange (d'epices).

thanks for the information and comment. :))