Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Much Nicer in Nice

This is my first crack at the Niçoise take on pizza, pissaladière. It's basically an onion tart, which can be topped with a variety of items. Traditionally, these include anchovies, little wine-y Niçoise olives, and tomato. The French never include cheese on these tarts (so says Mark Bittman), but I could not resist and scattered on a very restrained handful of chèvre. (You can take the American out of the cheese, but you can't take the cheese out of an American's pizza.)

I prepared my customary pizza dough in the food processor and let it rise slowly in the refrigerator all day, taking it out several hours before I intended to bake it. Bittman's tip about letting the dough rest every few minutes was an epiphany to me, and resulted in both uniform thickness and shape. Cooking the onions does take a good deal of time, so be sure to leave 60-90 minutes to get this done. It's a perfect weekend dinner, and authentic pissaladière is often served at room temperature, so this would be a lovely appetizer for a summer cocktail gathering, with all the work done ahead of time.

With a few changes, from Mark Bittman's How to Make Everything
1 recipe whole-wheat pizza dough
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 lbs. onions, chopped
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme (one could use dried)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
2 oz. anchovies, packed in oil
2-3 plum tomatoes, sliced
20-30 tiny Niçoise olives, pitted
Palmful fresh goat cheese, crumbled (optional)

Heat 2 T. olive oil over low heat. Add onions, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally until onions have given up liquid and begin to turn golden (one to two hours). Do NOT brown onions. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

20-30 minutes before onions are finished, grease a rimmed baking sheet 1 T. olive oil. Stretch pizza dough to fit into sheet, at about a 1/4-inch thickness all the way around. The best way to do this is to stretch and press it a little at a time, then leaving it to rest for a few minutes and so on. It should cover the entire pan, into the corners.

Meanwhile, when the onions are done, remove the lid and turn up the heat a bit to cook off most of the accumulated liquid. Fish out bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Season with salt and pepper. Spread onion mixture evenly onto prepared dough. Top with anchovies, tomato, olives, and cheese (if desired). Put into oven and lower heat to 350 degrees. Cook until crust is golden and toppings begin to brown, 30-45 minutes.

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