We saw this recipe in one of ours cookbooks ( Stuzzichini, Gribaudo – Parragon, 2004) and what attracted us in it right from the beginning was its simplicity.
And indeed, it so easy to prepare this famous French pizza-like snack. This is a traditional appetizer from southern France, the French Costa Azzura variety of pizza. It is believed to have been invented during the time of the Avignon Papacy (between 1305 and 1377) …or at least that is the worldwide accepted version for the origins of pissaladiere.
The Italians, of course, have their own version of the origins of this delicious snack. Except that in the nearby province of Liguria pissaladiere is also prepared for many centuries, they have a precise person, to which is attributed the “fatherhood” of this delicious dish – the famous commander of the Genoese fleet, the terror for the Mediterranean pirates Admiral Andrea D’oria (1466-1560).
Pissaladiere is a simple white pizza (no tomatoes are used) topped with sautéed, slightly caramelized onions, olives and anchovy paste or fillets. Options for the base vary from simple bread dough to short crust pastry or puff pastry. Of course, using a ready-made puff pastry is the easiest and quickest option, and we actually like its tenderness very much, but if you have your favorite short crust pastry recipe, just go for it.
A piece of pissaladiere is the ultimate compliment for a glass of chilled white wine. It is equally tasty when hot or cool, and that makes it a good picnic snack, or just a nice starter to share with friends, which you can have ready before they arrive.
As we enjoy pissaladiere very much, we improvise with different types of onions, vinegar and sugar. At the end we found we are absolutely unable to say what our favorite version is, so below follow all three of them.
This recipe participates in
Version 1 – the classic
Serves: 24 pieces
Preparation and baking time: 45 minutes
1 pack (400g) ready-made frozen puff pastry
600g red onions, cut into thin rounds
80g (a small jar) anchovy fillets
3 tsp brown sugar
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Some green olives, pitted and halved
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely chopped
Thaw the puff pastry for few hours in the refrigerator (or better leave it there overnight). Follow the producers’ instructions – the puff pastry is a delicate product and can be easily spoiled.
In a heavy based sauté pan heat the oil. Add the onions, some freshly ground black pepper and the garlic (if you decided to use it). Go carefully with the salt – the anchovy probably will be enough salty. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. When the onions are soft, add sugar and balsamic vinegar. Stir until the sugar is melted and the onions are sticky. The onions don’t have to be completely cooked; you need them soft, but remember they’ll be cooked in the oven. The mixture should be moist and sticky, but without any liquid. Add the thyme leaves, stir and remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to 200С/390F/190 С for fan assisted ovens.
While the onions are cooked prepare the rest of the ingredients. Drain the anchovy fillets from the oil and carefully cut them lengthwise in two stripes.
With a sharp knife cut the puff pastry into squares (or any form you like). Arrange them over a baking sheet with a small distance (2 or 3 cm) between them. For a whole pack of puff pastry you’ll probably need two standard baking sheets.
When the onions are ready, leave them to slightly cool for 5-10 minutes. Divide it over the puff pastry squares, leaving small boards (1 cm). Slightly level the caramelized onion layer and arrange the anchovy fillets in a lattice pattern.
If you decide to add olives, arrange them in the middle of the diamonds formed by the anchovy strips. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the pastry rises well and develops a beautiful golden colour.
Version 2 – the golden crowd pleaser
For this variation substitute the red onions with regular onions and use white sugar and white balsamic vinegar for caramelizing. The rest of the recipe is the same as in version 1. But the result, with its golden color apparently attracts people more and if you offer the tree variations to your guests almost certainly this type will finish for first.
Version 3 – our favorite
We tried to prepare pissaladiere with leeks instead of onions, and we used 2 tsp white sugar and ½ tsp white vinegar for caramelizing it. The result was even better then the first two types – milder base for the strong flavored anchovy fillets and a beautiful colour.
Of course, if you have enough time you can prepare the tree types of onion topping and then bake them together. For a pack of 400g puff pastry you’ll need 2 big red onions, 2 big regular onions and 2 or 3 medium leek stalks.