Where Would We Be Without Our Friends? Pissaladiere Nicoise

Pissaladiere with rough cross-hatching of anchovies, Nicoise olives

Pissaladiere with rough cross-hatching of anchovies, Nicoise olives

Pissaladiere is a French pizza. Its crust is most similar to Neapolitan pizza crust – but it’s thin and more cracker-like rather than thin and chewy. It uses no red sauce – just caramelized onions, olives, and anchovies. Quite a few anchovies.

I’d always thought it was a little bit of a pain to make and so, in my carefree way, I Never. Made. It.

And yes, this was a huge mistake, OK? But with a little help, I was able to overcome my lazybones attitude. Call it Pissaladiere therapy.

Sometimes the best kind of therapy is just hearing a friend say “I did this – why don’t you try it?”

One day my friend Susie stopped by with – count ’em – not one but two Pissaladiere. They were steaming hot and so painfully delicious that we had a hard time thanking her around mouthfuls of crisp crust, gloriously sweet caramelized onions, tangy Nicoise olives, and anchovies, lots of anchovies!

“I was just making Pissaladiere and I thought you and Bonney would like some so I made a couple of extra pies.”

I wish all my friends were like that, don’t you!!?

“Susie, you shouldn’t have – thank you, they’re {Chew, Snorf, Swallow} amazing {Take second piece, inhale it}!! What a lot of work, though – wow!”

“Oh, they’re really not hard to make. It was just as easy to make enough for a couple more while I was making what I needed.”

Knowing Susie, she may well have knitted 3 scarves, a sweater and a doggie jacket while preparing the Pissaladiere, she is – amazing – that way, but I digress! The point is, she did it. Therefore, I could do it. And – by a leap of logic – you can do it!

Encouraged by Susie’s wild bound into mass production of Pissaladiere, I began making my own. I liked the Cook’s Illustrated recipe. I liked Ina Garten’s recipes. I ended up with something that took a bit from both these remarkable sources, to whom I bow down in the evening before retiring. And – you know, it turned out to really be not too tough to make. Read on – in a little while, you will own this dish!

Factory Fresh – Pissaladiere

Topping Ingredients (For one pie, doubles well)

  • ¼ C. good olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 2 pounds yellow onions (about 3 good-sized onions), halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick. This may seem like a lot of onions, but when they’re caramelized, they melt down to a fraction of their uncooked size.
  • 1-1/2 T. fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 18 anchovies for topping, plus 2 anchovies for sautéing. If you can find them, use salt packed anchovies, rinse them lightly and pat them dry before using, they are wonderful!
  • A handful of Nicoise (or Kalamata) olives, pitted, cut in half horizontally, not lengthwise
  • Optional: 2 slices bacon, cooked until not-quite-crisp and roughly chopped (they’ll crisp on the Pissaladiere when you bake it). This is a delightful, but non-traditional add to a traditional recipe – I encourage you to try it!

Crust Ingredients (For one pie, doubles well. Hint.)

  • 2 C. flour
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 T. olive oil + additional oil for rolling the dough
  • 1/2 C. + 2 T. warm water (warm is the operative word here, around 100-110 degrees, your yeast will thank you by rising quickly and fully!
  • (optional but very good) corn meal for dusting your work surface. A little corn meal on the outside of your pizza crust is a beautiful thing.


Cook the Topping

Caramelize the onions. Heat a good sized fry pan. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is heated, add 2 anchovies and cook gently, mashing with a fork, until they melt.

Add the onions and turn the heat to low / medium low. Cook uncovered for about 45 minutes, shaking and stirring the pan periodically until the onions are quite caramelized. When the onions are just about done, add the salt (please taste before adding the salt, anchovies are quite salty!), the thyme, and the minced garlic, mix well, and sauté for another minute or two.

Make the Crust (Food Processor Style)

Put yeast, sugar, water and olive oil in a bowl and stir to combine. Put all dry ingredients in the food processor and pulse for a moment to blend. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the yeasty liquid. It should take 10-15 seconds to add the warm water.

By the time you’ve finished adding the water, the dough should have formed a ball and be smacking around in the bowl a bit.

Stop. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it by hand 10 or 15 times. It should feel smooth and elastic. Put it into a large oiled bowl, turn it by hand a few times to coat it with oil and cover the bowl with a towel. Let it stand for a half hour or so at room temperature, at which point it will have approximately doubled in bulk.

Assemble and Cook the Pie!

Remove dough from bowl and roll it into a smooth, tight ball. On a floured surface, roll the dough ball out a bit with a rolling pin, then stretch with fingers until it forms roughly a 10 x 15 oval shape. Put the crust on a baking sheet sprinkled with a generous amount of cornmeal. Press your fingertips firmly into the dough several times, to dimple the surface and make it more receptive to toppings. Moisten and pinch up the border as you might pinch a pie crust at the rim of a pie pan to form a bit of a smooth raised edge.

Spoon the cooked topping evenly on top of each crust, leaving about 3/4″ free of topping around the circumference of the pie.

Make a decorative cross hatching of anchovies (see picture of Pissaladiere at top for crude approximation. Anchovies break. What can I say! Me cook pretty one day).

Artfully arrange the Nicoise olive halves atop the pizza. No Nicoise olives? You can substitute a pitted Kalamata, but I urge you to try and find Nicoise in your area – they really make a difference. Or, you can do what I did and just strew them around, substituting the beauty of random selection for artifice. Yeah. That’s the ticket. Traditionally, you form crosshatches with the anchovies, and place an olive half at the point of each “diamond” the crosshatching forms. It’s pretty. I like more olives!

If you’ve cooked bacon, now is a good time to drift it over the surface of the Pissaladiere as well.

Put the baking sheet(s) in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the edges and bottom are crisp and golden. Remove from oven and serve hot on a cutting board, drizzled with a little awesome olive oil.

This will disappear fast – you may want to consider doubling the recipe. I did.