My poor non-French people,
Non non non, I swear! Summer is not over! At least not here, in California, where the wonderful weather is now getting kind of scary: after four years here, I must admit that I am now nostalgic with the fall and the winter season in Paris. It’s strange to live under an almost constant fine weather. Time passes strangely, there are no markers… Apart from one sad one: the day the tomato disappear.
I mean the real tomato. The one that’s in season, the one that saw this incredible thing that is called the sun… This marvelous red ball of flavors, with its incredible perfume.. The one that is now harder to find than a pearl in an oyster. I was so sad this morning when I cut the last tomatoes I found at the farmer’s market…
So I thought of trying to cook a meal that reminds me of summer but that can be done all year long (because of course, a French and perfect lady like me can never EVER use a tomato in winter or any produce that is not in season!).And that’s how I cooked a pissaladière.
1 ready-made pizza crust
4 pounds onion, peeled
1/3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, unpeeled
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon rosemary
¼ teaspoon salt
18 anchovies filets, drained
1 tablespoon pepper
Pissaladière immediately makes me think of summer and holidays, just because of where it’s from. It’s a traditional dish of Provençal cuisine, in the beautiful Riviera, and most precisely of the town of Nice.
People in Nice are very proud of their culinary tradition, so much that they even founded a special comity, something like a Culinary Supreme Court, “Le Cercle de la Capelina d’or“, that sets what the authentic recipes exactly are.
Their biggest fight is about the world famous “salade niçoise” (no french beans, no vinegar nor lettuce in it, contrary to what is done very often), but they also have rules about the pissaladière, so I tried to follow it the best I could.
Pissaladière is basically a pizza without tomatoes but with a loooooot of onions. The name sounds the same, and for a reason: pisssaladière and pizza have the same ancestor, the ” piscialandrea” which was made in the region of Genoa in the 15th Century. It used to be made with a paste of pureed salted fish, mostly anchovies, the pissalat.
But pissalat is hard to find, so almost everybody cooks it with anchovies and black olives that are typical of Nice.
The secret, I’ve found, is really the onion compote. It takes a lot of onions, and kind of a lot of time, but that’s really worth it!
- Roll out your dough on a parchment paper sheet, and stretch it to a 10 by 15 inch rectangle. Then put a damp cloth on it and let it rise till it doubles in height.
- Peel the onions and cut them in very thin slices.
- Put a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.
- Add the olive oil, heat it, then start melting the diced onions in it. Add the unpeeled garlic clove, the bay leaf, the rosemary and the thyme, salt and pepper, stirring continuously. Reduce the heat to very low. Cover and simmer for around 45 minutes. From time to time, check the onions, stir them, and let the water out before putting the cover back on. They should slowly shrink and caramelize: you can stop the heat when almost all the water is gone and the onions are golden and make a “compotée d’oignons”, an onion marmalade.
- If there’s still water at the end, bring the heat to high for5 minutes, cover off .Take out the garlic and the bay leaf.
- Preheat your oven at 500F. Roll out your dough on a parchment paper sheet, till it’s 0,2 inch thick.
- The pissaladiere is always a rectangle, and it should be about the size of your pastry rack or pizza stone. Spread the onions evenly on the dough.
- Then arrange the anchovies filets on it: they should make small rectangles. Put an olive at the center of each rectangle. Put in the hot oven for 20 minutes. Just as you take it out from the oven, sprinkle with pepper.
You can eat the pissaladière warm, or cold (maybe even better!). Serve with a nice green lettuce, pour yourself a glass of iced Rosé de Provence, and put on a movie like Manon of the spring.
There you are, with the amazing storytelling of French and perfect Marcel Pagnol and the incredible beauty of young Emmanuelle Béart: you’re in Provence and summer is still here all right….
Bon appétit les amis!