Thursday, May 20, 2010


It's Thursday again.  An always busy day, but also often the signal that my week of marketing, planning, menu changes, cooking, and clean-ups is coming to a close (unless, of course, I was insane enough to book weekend parties). Once I sum up the week in invoices, totals and laundry, then the next few days are all mine.  To end each week, I always take some time go over the next week's schedule and plan out menus to try and  fulfill each client's wishes for the following week.  I email them out to each client and then just call it quits for a few days. After three parties and four "stock the fridge" sessions in three days (or something like that), you would think my plans would be really simple for the next week.

In reality, though, when I over-book myself, I begin to plan more and more ambitious and creativity-required menus and dishes, including new recipes that I have no idea about or haven't a clue what the results will be. It is truly frightening to show up to a three-course dinner party for 12 without having even read the dessert recipe yet.  I guess I really like living on the edge.

I'm not sure why I do it.  Maybe to keep myself entertained or maybe I get cocky about how fast I can make a nice crudites on the fly while cooking off 16 Filets, then leaving and starting all over again somewhere else numerous times in a day.

Probably what happens, though, is that while doing the end of the week planning,  in retrospect I think to myself, that wasn't so bad and so then plan another week of challenging and confusing menus where I  must rise to the occasion and accommodate my own high maintenence menus once again.  It's what I do and I do it to myself so I won't complain.  Without working in a "real" kitchen, maybe the insanity of it all keeps me feeling connected to the restaurant folks. Some really great food comes out of these off-the-cuff sort of menus and I find that the frantic prep sessions often turn out the best recipes.

Ever since I was in culinary school, I have fantasized about whipping up a Pissaladiere, which is a French pizza-savory tart type of thing.  It is traditionally made with caramelized onions, anchovies, and French oil-cured olives.  I LOVE it, but until yesterday have never gotten around to actually making one.  I was hired to cook for a party in honor of and to raise campaign funds for the governer of Maine.  It was a simple wine and hors d'ouevre event where the governer would be speaking.  What better time to fulfill a food fantasy and try something brand new that I have never made before?  Ha.  Well, all went well and thanks to Ina Garten, I printed off a perfect recipe for pissaladiere.  It was gorgeous, lovely, and beautiful and I highly recommend making one to munch on this weekend.

While the party was going on, the kids were in the kitchen and they loved this, too! If you have adventurous eaters at home, they will make this disappear, so better go ahead and make two.

The recipe I used is from Barefoot in Paris, by Ina Garten.  Hers is a classic, traditional pissaladiere, but I added some freshly grilled artichokes from Citarella.  I thought it would be a nice seasonal adjustment that would accommodate more palettes.  Here it is.  Don't be put off because it uses a yeasted crust.  It's very simple and very fast.  Really, you should make it. 

adapted from Barefoot in Paris, by Ina Garten
makes two 10"x15" pissaladieres

For onion topping (halve this to just make one):
1/2 cup good oliveoil, plus extra for brushing
4 pounds yellow onions, halved and sliced 1/4" thick
2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 whole cloves garlic

For the dough:
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 envelopes dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons good olive oil
4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
2 teaspoons kosher salt

To assemble:
Cornmeal, for baking
12-18 anchovy fillets (and/or 3-5 large grilled artichoke bottoms, thinly sliced)
12 French black olives, preferable oil-cured, pitted (I halved mine)

For the topping, heat the olive oil in a very large saute pan and cook the onions, thyme, salt, pepper, and garlic over low heat for 45 minutes, until the onions are sweet and cooked but not browned.  Toss the onions from time to time.  After 30 minutes, take out the garlic, chop it roughly, and add it back to the onions.

Meanwhile, for the dough, combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.  (If the bowl, is cold, start with warmer water so it's at least 100 degrees F when you add the yeast.) Add 3 cups of the flour, then the salt, and mix on medium-low speed.  While mixing, add 1 more cup of flour or just enough to make a soft dough.  Mix the dough on medium-low speed for about 10 minutes, until smooth, sprinkling it with flour to keep it from sticking to the bowl.  When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead it by hand a dozen times.  It should be smooth and elastic.  Place the dough in a a well-oiled bowl and turn it to cover lightly with oil.  Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel.  Allow tho rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts, rolling each one into a smooth ball.  If you're only making 1 pissaladiere, place 1 ball on a baking sheet and cover it loosely with a damp towel.  Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.  (If you're making just one and not using the other dough, wrap it well and refrigerate or freeze it for the next time.)  Roll the dough lightly with a rolling pin, then stretch it to a 10"x15" rectangle and place it on a baking sheet that is sprinkled with yellow cornmeal.

If the onions are very oily, you can drain them in a mesh strainer for a few minutes before you move on to the next step
Spoon the onion topping onto the dough, leaving a 3/4" border all around.  Artfully arrange the artichokes or anchovies and olives on top, brush the edge of the dough  with olive oil, and bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust is crisp.  Serve hot on a cutting board.

It is so good.


Anonymous said...

Can you freeze this dish before it is baked?

Catherine Barker Hoffman said...

You could give it a shot. It might get messy, though. Either par-bake it first or try lining the cookie sheet with oiled parchment, making them, then freezing. Once frozen you can probably wrap it better and freeze then. Let me know how it goes!