Monday, February 11, 2008

Pissaladière (Salted yeast dough with onions, anchovies and olives)

Pissaladière is France’s version of pizza. It uses olive oil instead of butter, and there are no tomatoes or cheese. Instead, it contains slowly sautéed onions, anchovies, olives, and sometimes garlic to make a sweet and salty combination. Hmmn. Once again, my conservative, Scandinavian taste buds are being pushed to enjoy anchovies and olives.

This dish, which is a common street or snack food, comes from the Provence region in the southern part of France.

map from Wikipedia

The dough is usually thicker than that of the classic Italian pizza, but I have seen some recipes call for pâté brisée, puff pastry, or pizza dough (which is also a yeast dough) as the crust. If you’re making the yeast dough, you must start 4-6 hours beforehand.

The pissaladière gets its name from one of the ingredients traditionally used in it: pissala. Pissala, which derives its name from “piscis” for fish and “sal” for salt, is a fish paste made from anchovies or sardines. The fish is pounded using a mortar and pestle and aromatics such as thyme and bay are added.

Instead of pissala, nowadays anchovy filets are often used or even anchovy paste. The best anchovies are stored in salt, but before using them, rinse them well to remove the extra salt. For a less intense salt flavor, use anchovy filets packed in oil or another liquid and drain them on a paper towel before using. Make sure the oil hasn’t gone rancid. I was only able to find anchovies stored in brine.

Use white onions, which are somewhat sweeter then yellow onions. Also, for this dish, Niçoise (nee-SWAHZ) olives should be used since they’re the type of olive grown in Nice and have a smoky, nutty flavor. They’re small, oval olives that range in color from purple to black, cured in brine, and packed in olive oil. Again, I wasn’t able to find these in the local suburban grocery stores available to me, so I used Kalamata olives, which are also a purple/black color and recommended as a substitute for Niçoise by some cooking websites. They have a more fruity flavor. Also a tip: buy pitted olives. I didn't do this, but I was able to use my cherry pitter to remove the pits (a stocking stuffer that has come in handy on odd occasions!). I didn't realize it was also marketed as an olive pitter. :)

A tip I learned the hard way: Proof the yeast before using. I even went out and bought a brand new bottle of “traditional yeast” that wasn’t’ supposed to expire for 1 year. I didn’t’ proof the yeast. It didn’t rise. Next time, I made sure to proof the yeast by adding 1 teaspoon of sugar to the liquid/yeast mixture. If it doubled in volume after 10 minutes, I knew I had good yeast.

Recipe for crust adapted from Link

Makes 4 10-inch crusts

½ cup warm water (110°F, if using a thermometer) plus 1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
575 g (3½ cups) all-purpose flour
6 g (1 teaspoon) salt
22 g (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

Into the warm water, stir in yeast, and let stand until yeast dissolves and turns creamy, about 5 minutes. It’s best to use a thermometer to gauge the temperature of the liquid.

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well, and fill it with the yeast mixture, olive oil, and a cup of warm water. Stir, incorporating liquid little by little, until a ball of dough forms. Turn dough onto floured work surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If dough seems dry and hard, add a few drops of water (you can dip your fingertips in water to add drops at a time); if wet and sticky, add a little flour.

Shape dough into a smooth ball, dust with flour, and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rest in a warm, dark place until doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes. Divide into 4 balls before using. You can freeze the dough for up to 3 months.

Recipe for Pissaladière adapted from Link and Link

Serves 6 as a starter

Dough for crust

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 kg white onions (just over 2 pounds)
1 bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, whole
splash of water
½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar

8 to 10 anchovy fillets in salt (if you can find it), well rinsed
about 16 Niçoise olives, sliced
fresh herbs such as rosemary, oregano, and thyme, chopped fine
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Peel the onions and slice into thin slices (¼-inch). In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, the garlic, and the bay leaf. Stir to distribute oil and allow to sweat until they soften and the moisture released by the onions has evaporated and they begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Then add the balsamic vinegar. Reduce and cook, stirring frequently to make sure onions are not sticking to the pan, until onions have softened and are medium golden brown, about 20 minutes longer. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove the garlic and bay leaf. You can make this up to 1 day ahead.

Stretch out the Pâte à Pissaladière dough into an oval and sprinkle with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper, leaving a ¾ inch or 2 cm border so that it can puff up. Top with cooled onion mixture, Niçoise olives, anchovies, herbs, and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Let it rise for 15 minutes. Bake in oven for 30-45 minutes. If desired, drizzle with a touch more olive oil. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Tasting Notes

Warning: You must like anchovies, olives, and lots of onions to enjoy this dish. It's a stinky dish best shared with someone else who likes stinky food! I prefer my "pizza" without anchovies or olives and a lot less onions. So, I've tried altering this recipe to fit my tastebuds, but then again, it's not a Pissaladière, is it?! My kids liked the Pâte à Pissaladière à la fromage! I guess that's a start.

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Running total: $131.77 + $1.72 (crust) + $8.93 (Pissaladière) = $142.42

Butter used so far: 1 pound, 27.5 tablespoons


Anonymous said...

Hi Shari. You can share that stinky dish with me any day! I LOVE that recipe as it contains 3 of my favorite ingredients. Thanks for sharing your version with us. It's another one for me to add to my collection.

ChovyChap 2008

Shari said...

As a foodie, I wish I liked ALL foods. I keep hoping that if I keep on trying things I don't like, someday my tastebuds will change! I'm glad you like them, though.

Anonymous said...

My pleasure, you're a treasure!

ChovyChap 2009