Category Archives: onion

My Take on Pissaladière for Sweet November

This is my recent take on the great French classic, Pissaladière.Piss – what?’ Correction: ‘pissala’ (deriving from either Ligurian piscialandreaor Occitan pissaladiera) was a paste made of the salted baby anchovies used in the recipe at the time of its inception when a big part of Southern France was in Italian possession. This explains why it is pizza rather than bread. Despite the fact that you will have a fisherman breath while eating it, pissaladière is an incredibly tasty and addictive meal or snack. Originating from the Nice (yep, from no less than The Côte d’Azur) and relatively unknown few decades ago, pissaladière is slowly but steadily becoming more and more popular all over the world as a unique and comforting kind of pizza, which by its savory characteristics can only come close to the classic French onion soup (although the anchovies and black olives addition in this pizza make a strong salty-savoury punch to otherwise gently sweet caramelized onion in this dish).

Pissaladière is an easy crowd pleaser (specifically for those who like caramelized onions, cheese and olives). Not to mention it’s a very low budget fare, so if your fridge is empty, or you feel destitute for this or that reason, this easy to pull off pizza can comfort you within less than 30 minutes. It is also a great idea for a vegetarian cocktail or potluck party.

I used the fresh goat feta cheese we procured at La Chevriere de Monnoir goat farm because it was so good (gently sweet and moderately salty), it really had to be showcased. I also made two kinds of this pizza: one with anchovies on a side (making it a pure caramelized onion and goat cheese tart) and the one with anchovies in (making it a true pissaladière style). 

It’s November already, the gloomiest month of the year, with its heavy leaden sky, moonless nights, violent gusts of wind and down-pouring torrents of cold rain – all pushing the cheerful October leaves into desolation and death, leaving the trees and hedges sad and homeless.  However, it’s exactly the November sky that makes this month so present, with its infinite vastness and its temper. It becomes a giant canvas that imprints the weather’s mood swings striking the eyes so vividly:

From dull and gray…

To layer cake like colors, changing its ‘high austerity to delight’…

Back to heavy leaden and bright with occasional windows of the light, spanning their beams across the naked fields as if trying to vacuum the last drop of life from the nature…

To peaceful and pastoral again, like in this image taken at the goat farm…

November sky has always been an inspiration to many of great artists depicting it in their masterpieces (although a friend of mine has a theory it was simply because there were no more bugs and mosquitoes to disturb them from their work). Well, I incline to believe it’s inspirational…

Flock of Sheep at Pasture by Aelbert Cuyp, 1655
November in general is inspirational in many ways, including to our appetite, which grows almost proportional to the dropping temperatures, leaving us craving for this or that comfort food. Pissaladière(or French pizza if you want) is one of those fall comfort foods for me.  I always make it in November and it makes my November sweet and cozy. Not surprisingly, after I bought all types of cheese at La Chevriere de Monnoir, I decided to apply one of them to the featured twist. What a wonderful marriage of tastes you have in the result! Salty-sour- tangy-aromatic-crunchy and soooo gently savory sweeet: a real dance the taste buds weary of pumpkin and squash.
Tips for the first time onion caramelizing:  
Slice the onions as thin as possible (sharpening the knife is always a good idea).
Use the scratch-less, non-stick skillet, OR be ready to use much more oil to prevent burning the onions.
Begin with medium-high heat and the minimum amount of oil, lowering the heat progressively as the onions begin to brown.
Do not leave the onions unattended for longer than 2-3 minutes, or they will burn.
Don’t forget to include garlic and thyme (fresh or dried) in the process – these two ingredients are crucial for the final taste result.
A splash of dry wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar in the final minutes would add an extra layer of taste and a nice touch of sourness to the onions.
The layer of onions spread on the pizza should be half as thick as the crust.

As for the pizza dough, which I’ve tried many, and can tell you that this recipe is really foolproof and the best one for me. As long as you have a working yeast, it always, always works, so please take a 
note of it.

Well, thank you all for reading this post. I hope you will have fun making your own pissaladière and my recipe will be of help. For now I’m just going to eat another piece. Oooops, it’s gone in less than a minute. Well tried and tested and highly recommended for your own sweet November. The Enya’s gem song might as well put you in the mood.
Sweet November Everyone!

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PISSALADIERE: CARAMELIZED ONION PIZZA WITH GOAT CHEESE, BLACK OLIVES AND ANCHOVIES
Yields 6 portions
Ingredients:
1 pizza dough (see this recipe for the foolproof homemade pizza dough, OR use store-bought) 
1 tbsp cornmeal for dusting
4 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzle
2 lbs onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp thyme, fresh or dried
1 big splash of wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar (optional)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 handful of pitted black olives, halved
3 oz (2/3 cup) goat cheese feta, crumbled
8 salted anchovies fillets (rinsed and patted dry if baked in) (optional)
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 450F. Place the pizza stone in the middle of the oven (if using). Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a flat round or rectangular shape. Transfer the dough to baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Cover the dough with plastic or a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, heat the 3 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet to medium-high. Add onions, mix vigorously and lower the heat to medium-low. Sprinkle with thyme. Keep mixing every other minute. Add garlic and mix. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes, stirring every 5-7 minutes until the moisture has evaporated and the onions caramelized to almost a marmalade consistency. Add a splash of wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar. Stir and evaporate for the next 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove plastic or cloth from dough, brush with 1 tablespoon of oil and spread the onion mixture, leaving ¾ inch border all around. Arrange cheese, olives and anchovy fillets (if using) over the onions, then slide onto the hot pizza stone (if using) or onto the middle rack of the oven. Bake pizza for 18-20 minutes, or until the crust has browned. Remove from the oven, cut into wedges and serve warm or at the room temperature.

Shucking Oysters: Sauce Mignonette

Oyster season has officially arrived and its the best time to go, get and taste those little aphrodisiacs without spending an extra buck on a raw bar. Provided of course you have a skilful volunteer or are brave enough yourself to shuck them.

The way to eat them? As you probably know, there is no right way: you just slurp them raw with your favourite accoutrement, such as lemon, cocktail sauce, salt, pepper or, our all-time favourite, sauce mignonette, which takes just few minutes to prepare. Please find below the recipe of this easy sauce to help you to have your next oyster party the most satisfying experience.

Les Mangeurs d’Huitres, 1825, via Wikimedia Commons
Since opening oysters takes quite a skill, here are some tips to follow before shucking to make the process easier. Experiment and choose what you like:
  • Place the oysters in the freezer for ten to fifteen minutes
  • Put oysters in white vinegar water for a few seconds
  • Bake for 1 minute in conventional oven at 300F
  • Steam oysters for a few seconds
And for those who take the oyster knife in their hands for a first time, here is a good video on shucking oysters from Serious Eats you might want to check before you proceed.

Back to our oyster sauce, which is a simple and classic staple of a French cuisine. The name stems from French mignonette or poivre mignonette: cracked peppercorns used for au poivre preparations. Thus, mignonette sauce which involved this ingredient, plus vinegar and shallots became a sauce used for oysters.

Good luck for your shuck session and I hope you will enjoy your oysters with mignonette like we do. Here are our two most preferred versions this little sauce:

1. Red Onion Mignonette

1/2 red onion finely chopped
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped black peppercorn
salt to taste
Combine all ingredients and chill. Serve with chilled oysters on the half shell. Don’t forget to make the oyster loose in the shell before serving.

2. Lemon Mignonette

1 large shallot, finely chopped or minced
1/2 cup of red wine vinegar
juice from 1 lemon
splash of balsamic vinegar
pinch of black pepper

Mix the ingredients together and let it rest for 20-30 minutes before serving.

PS: The addition of a good bottle of Rosé, such as this Listel Rosé Grain de Gris with its subtle layers of fresh peach, apricot and strawberry flavors is definitely cause for celebration when paired with oyster delicacy :

 Bon Appétit!