Saturday, March 15, 2008

I Need Frenchification Today. Vive la France!

I'm half French, the daughter of a French dad, and I am a bonafide Francophile. I feel like cooking something French today.

A few years ago, right at this time of year, I was on the French Riviera in Nice soaking up lovely sunshine and warm breezes. This is a splendid part of France. The pace is gentle, weather is temperate, and the people are gracious and laid back. I had the best time wandering around the market, looking at the beauteous bounty of vegetables, fruits and flowers. The market is open every day except Monday, and I could never tire of the sights, sounds and smells of it.

It was at the market in Nice that I was first introduced to Pissaladiere, a caramelized onion tart. It's traditionally made with anchovies, which I cannot stomach, so I am making mine without the stinky salty little bastards. I am instead going to add capers, which I think will add a nice bite and go well with the caramelized onions and calamata olives.
I start with a crust recipe that is not French at all. In fact, it's a Nigel Slater recipe from his book, Real Food. It's an easy, thin crust that I have used with all kinds of toppings. This method makes 2 pizzas. You can take half and refrigerate it after the kneading stage, then use it later. Or make 2 pizzas, but that can be dangerous!

Mix 3 tablespoons of whole wheat flour, 225g of plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a packet of dry yeast, a tablespoon of milk 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 120 ml of warm water. Knead it for 10 minutes. Should be a firm dough. Set it aside in an oiled bowl, cover with a dish towel and let it expand for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut into thin slices what seems like a mountain of onions.

I used about 4. Don't fret--they cook down to a surprisingly small mound. Heat some oil in a big saute pan and start cooking the onions. Only use a couple of tablespoons of oil, because you actually want the onions to stick to the pan eventually. When they begin to soften, turn the heat to medium low and be very patient, because this is going to take at least 30 minutes, and more like 45. When the onions are quite soft, go ahead and add about 4 cloves of thin sliced garlic and a handful of fresh thyme leaves.

Just keep turning the onions gently and fairly often, deglazing the pan with sloshes of sherry when the onions stick to the bottom. The onions will be so soft they'll seem on the verge of deterioration. Eventually, you'll end up with a nicely browned little pile of concentrated oniony perfection. Mix in some chopped calamata olives and set the mess aside.

By now, the crust dough has puffed up nicely. Cut it in half if you haven't already. Press it onto a baking sheet--try not to make it too perfectly shaped 'cause that's boring. Just go for an approximate oval or rectangle about 3/8 of an inch thick with a little ridge around it. Let that sit again for 10 minutes.

Now put the onion mixture on the crust and gently spread it out. Dot it here and there with capers. Use the capers sparingly, as they are very strong and salty.

Brush the crust edges with oil, sprinkle the whole thing with fresh ground pepper, (no need to salt this--there's enough salt in the olives and capers) then bake at 400 until it looks done. I like it to get quite brown around the edges.

Bon appetit!


pnlkotula said...

Now see, that LOOKS really impressive to me, but I wouldn't get past the olives. Bravo, though - you're fancy.

JB said...

will you make this for me in my new house?? We can have a blog dinner and pick some folks (like Lisa, Robyn - whomever) to pick their fav dish from our blog and cook it for them? Just a thought - mostly because I want one of those pies!!!

andy said...

I'd love to make it for you. I can make a separate one for Lisa with no olives!
A blog dinner sounds like great fun!

andy said...

Oops, I posted as Andy again. That was me, Janiney.

pnlkotula said...

Oooh yay! - Yes, yes, blog dinner!!I bring presents...

pnlkotula said...

Oooh yay! - Yes, yes, blog dinner!!I bring presents...I thought Andy was flirting with me. Damn!