Friday, May 14, 2010

DIY: Pissaldiere

Olives and anchovies and onions, oh my.  While Pissaldiere is to not for the shy nor that first date, it is a wonderful rustic pizza that imparts terrific flavor and texture, very much like it's distant cousin, french onion soup. 

I adapted it from Joanne Harris' terrific cookbook, My French Kitchen, a terrific and underrated tome full of some of the most beautiful food photography in print.  Whenever I read it, I feel like I vicariously vacationing in France. I often give this book as a housewarming or birthday present, as the recipes are as good as the the  vibe.

A couple of words on working with this recipe:
Use the best olive oil you can find.  The anchovies, olives, onions, and dough are all enhanced by the fruity effect of the oil, and substitutions will diminish the final dish.  I was lucky enough to have a friend who has a relative who has a friend in Italy, and they go there once a year to harvest and press the olives.  Nice work if you can get it.  Anyway, they allowed me to purchase some very tasty oil which I purposed for this recipe, and it worked beautifully.  If you do not have such a friend or bottle on hand, most Spanish or Italian imports will be fine, and are readily found in your grocery store.  Extra virgin is fine, although a less refined press might work well with the strong flavors in this recipe.

You are baking a simple yeast bread for this recipe.  Get out your french pin, as anything with handles is tough to manage.  Basic white flour is all that is required here - this is a peasant dish. Note: If you are pressed for time, feel free to buy store bought pizza dough, which I suspect will work just fine in a recipe like this. 

The onions need to be sliced thin - 1/8 of an inch, tops.  As in get out your mandoline if you have one.  You can try a food processor, but if you do, push the food through rapidly, to ensure a thinner cut.  

Thyme is the unsung hero in this recipe.  If you can find it fresh, all the better.  

Ms. Harris is very picky about the anchovies.  She highly recommends the dried kind, which are hard to find and a little extra work.  I couldn't locate any on short notice, and so I used La Squista, an imported Italian brand you can find at most Italian grocery stores.  Delicious, as are most anchovies that are 1) packed in olive oil, 2) packaged in glass, and 3) imported from Spain, Italy, or South America. 

This dish is delicious served on it's own or with a simple green salad.  For dessert, try one of Ms. Harris' eponymous chocolats, also found in her lovely book.  

Adapted from My French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde


1/4 cup olive oil
3 1/2 lbs yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp sugar
4 oz shredded Gruyere cheese (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme 
20 - 30 oil pitted mediteranean olives
1 small glass jar of anchovies (about 15), sliced in halves, lengthwise
olive oil for drizzling

.50 oz/ 2 packets active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water
1 tsp + 2 tsp sugar
2 cups white flour
4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 tsp salt

  1. Saute onions in oil on medium low heat for 45 minutes.  Add 1 tsp thyme.  Add sugar and cook until lightly carmelized, about 10 - 15 more minutes.  
  2. Make dough.   Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Proof with 1 tsp sugar. In a large bowl combine yeast mixture and remaining ingredients.  Knead and then let rise for 30 min.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Form dough into a round ball, and roll out into a rectangle.  Place on a baking sheet.
  4. Brush dough with olive oil. Sprinkle with gruyere cheese, thyme, and onions. Criss cross the anchovies into decorative 'x' designs, and place olives in between. 
  5. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.  Serve warm.

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