“I don’t eat bait,” said my faithful sous chef, and with that announcement began my task to honor the spirit of this week’s French Fridays with Dorie (FFWD) challenge in a manner that satisfied our provincial taste buds.
I look forward to these weekly challenges for they expose me to new recipes, new ingredients, and the FFWD group’s helpful comments about their experiences with and interpretations of the recipes. Although I consider myself quite an adventuresome chef and diner, my limits are tested when a recipe includes unfavored ingredients such as egg yolk and, like this week’s recipe, anchovies. While I don’t share my sous chef’s staunch aversion, I am not a total fan of this slimy little fish. I can eat anchovies in a Caesar Salad, or if they are mushed into something so they are unrecognizable, but even I was unwilling to see them stretched languorously across the top of my food. A substitute was needed.
|Why do I always forget something when prepping? Thyme anyone?|
Fortunately, Dorie is very good at explaining the origins of a dish in Around My French Table. Her section on Pissaladière mentioned it is a “treasured street food” in Niçoise (or, for those non-Francophiles, the area in and about Nice). The wheels started turning and the Salade Niçoise became a bit of inspiration. I decided to substitute cracked- black pepper seared ahi tuna for the anchovies and top off with arugula. Unfortunately, my usually dependable sous chef forgot the arugula—he said he was distracted by a comely shopper checking out melons. Since necessity is the mother of invention, the spring lettuce mix in the refrigerator became the topper.
I have made a lot of homemade pizzas and done a lot of baking, so I am not a dough-novice. But for some reason, this was the stickiest yeast dough I have ever encountered. I felt like Spiderwoman and, try as I may, could not get the dough off my hands and board without vigorous scrubbing. When I finally got the dough into the bowl to rest, I felt as though I had gone ten rounds with Hillary Swank.
|Drizzling olive oil into dissolved yeast|
|Pouring yeast mixture into well of flour|
|No matter how much flour I add, still sticky|
|Nap time for dough, cocktail time for me|
|Dough has doubled in size|
The main ingredient, and the whole reason for the Pissaladière, is caramelized onions. My last experience caramelizing onions was not so successful, probably due to the fact I was multi-tasking and you shouldn’t caramelize anything while doing laundry, decorating for the holidays, and walking Sasha, The Wonder Dog. I was determined to make the perfect caramelized onions this time and took to heart Dorie’s instruction not to rush the process. In 45 minutes, Dorie’s estimated time to complete, my onions were still in a virginal state. But in 90 minutes the onions looked like golden tanned bathers along the Cote d’ Azur. Perhaps the heat was a tad too low and I a bit too cautious because of the onion debacle last Christmas? In any event, the result looked great and the room was redolent with a sweet, nutty aroma.
|What did I do before onion goggles|
|There is just never enough Thyme - MIA again|
|The Thyme finally made it in, but I forgot to photo the finished caramalized onions|
This recipe is from a region where anchovies are a precious ingredient. I try to remain true to Dorie’s recipes, so I needed to work anchovies into my Pissaladière. I did so by adding a small amount of anchovy paste to the caramelized onions and lightly reheating to fully incorporate it. When that was done, I rolled the dough to a thin consistency, lathered it with the caramelized onion- anchovy mixture, and baked for 20 minutes.
|Punched down dough, still a bit sticky|
|The second nap for the dough before rolling out|
|Ready to bake|
In the meantime, I rolled my ahi tuna in cracked black pepper and cooked it briefly in a very hot non-stick pan until the edges had blackened and the center remained a bright pink. I put the seared ahi tuna aside to rest and put the spring salad mix in a bowl and tossed it with a small amount of salt and olive oil. I took the dough from the oven and sprinkled black Niçoise olives all around and baked in the oven for another 4 minutes. When done, I removed the Pissaladière from the oven and transferred it to a serving platter where I added the seared ahi tuna, along with the lightly dressed spring lettuce mix and a few feta crumbles for good measure. It looked quite pretty and made me think about sitting on the French Riveria with a glass of wine to enjoy with the dish.
|Seared Anchovy substitute|
|The ahi is a beautiful color, wonder if I can get a dress that color|
The Pissaladière dough was thin and crisp – just like we prefer. The caramelized onion and anchovy mix, with its infusion of thyme and bay leaf, subtly suggested the terroir of Niçoise. The black cracked pepper crust of the seared ahi added a robust heat to the dish that was cooled by the spring salad mix. Plus the firm, tasty meat was a welcome and very successful substitute for anchovies. The Niçoise olives added yet another layer of taste and texture. But a word or warning: the olives are small and their pits very hard, so use pitted olives if available and, if not, be very careful when
you bite into one or you risk bankrupting the Tooth Fairy.
|Notice the Fire Tulips - Open Sky sent them as a Thank You for shopping|
This dish was a definite winner and I am going to serve this for my next ladies brunch!
To read more about the French Friday with Dorie experiences: