Onions, olives and anchovies. Formerly, three of my most hated foods. Thanks to culinary school, my opinion of these foods is beginning to change. A few weeks ago, we made a traditional French appetizer called la Pissaladiere. Originating from southern France, this pizza-like dish draws influence from Northern Italy.
The dough is usually made with puff pastry or pate brisee. On top of the crust is a layer of golden brown, caramelized onions. These are not the crunchy, overpowering onions I have always despised. When sweated with butter and salt until they are softened, these onions become sweet and incredibly flavorful!
The next layer is anchovies, small salt-water fish. The canned or jarred anchovies we know best are cured by salting them in brine. This process is responsible for the strong, salty taste of the anchovy. Fresh anchovies are much milder, and are popular in Italy.
For a pissaladiere, anchovies are sliced in half length-wise, and then arranged on top of the caramelized onions. We arranged our anchovies in a crisscross pattern, mostly for aesthetic purposes. Surprisingly, I found the salty anchovies a perfect contrast to the sweet onions underneath.
Lastly, Kalamata black olives are halved and then arranged over the onions in between the anchovy strips. Alone, the oily taste of olives is too strong. Combined with the salty and sweet flavors of the Pissaladiere, the olive flavor is toned down.
La Pissaladiere blew my mind. There has never, I mean never, been any situation in the past where I have enjoyed any combination of onions, anchovies or olives.
My next question, of course, is where in D.C. can I find La Pissaladiere? Here’s one place – last week, i tried a French restaurant called Bistro La Bonne along the U Street corridor. The restaurant offers traditional French bistro fare, such as Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinee (French Onion Soup), Salade Nicoise, Moules Frites, Boeuf Bourgignon and La Pissaladiere. I ordered the Salade Nicoise (pictured, left) during my visit, which combines tuna, green beans, boiled egg, potato, cucumber, olive, anchovy and bell peppers over greens. Bistro La Bonne’s rendition tasted fresh and crisp. The red and yellow bell peppers, green beans and black olives made for a colorful, visually appealing salad.
Next time, I’ll be sure to order La Pissaladiere. In the meantime, check out the photo below of me serving La Pissaladiere at school a few weeks ago (You know you love my stylish uniform!).