Pissaladière is the best of two of my favorite worlds colliding. France and Italy.
Nice and the South of France are so close to the Italy border that there should be no surprise that influences in food, culture and language exist on both sides.
This dish is the pizza dough of Italy combined with the olives, anchovies and herbs of the southern France. It is believed that the Romans introduced it to the French during the Avignon Papacy. It is a type of white pizza, as no tomatoes or no cheese for that matter, are used.
This version is from Ina Garten’s wonderful cookbook, Barefoot in Paris, which I highly recommend.
For the topping (makes one)
1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 lbs yellow onions, halved and sliced 1/4 in thick
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 whole cloves garlic
For the dough (makes two)
1 1/4 warm (100-110˚) water
2 envelopes dry yeast
1 Tbsp honey
5 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
2 tsp kosher salt
To assemble each pissaladière
Cornmeal, for baking
12 -18 anchovy fillets
12 French black olives, preferably oil cured, pitted
For the topping heat the olive oil in a very large saute pan and cook the onions, thyme, salt, pepper and garlic over low heat for 45 minutes, until the onions are sweet and cooked but not browned.
Toss the onions from time to time. After 30 minutes, take out the garlic, chop it roughly, and add back to the onions.
Meanwhile, for the dough, combine the water, yeast, honey and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer, warmed with water first and fitted with a dough hook. Add 3 cups of the flour, then the salt and mix on med-low speed.
While mixing, add 1 more cup of flour, or just enough to make a soft dough. Mix the dough on med-low speed for about 10 minutes, until smooth, sprinkling it with flour to keep it from sticking to the bowl.
When the dough is ready, turn our onto a floured board and knead by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and turn to cover lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel. Allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450˚.
Divide dough into two equal parts, rolling each into a smooth ball. If only using one ball, wrap and freeze or refrigerate for future use. Place the ball you are using onto a baking sheet, cover loosely with damp towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
Roll the dough lightly with a rolling pin, then stretch to a 10 x 15 inch rectangle and place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.
Spoon the onion topping onto the dough, leaving a 3/4 inch border all around. Artfully arrange the anchovies and olives on top, brush the edge of the dough with olive oil.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust is crisp.
I like to serve it hot, cut into squares, with a nice salad and glass of chilled Pinot Grigio.