Originating from the South of France, this classic onion tart has evolved into many versions – some with or without garlic, sugar, vinegar or herbs. Traditionally the crust is made from a thick pizza-like dough and I’ve seen in served piled onto slabs of crusty, olive oil fried bread.
I’m using my favorite shortcut for the base – frozen puff pastry – a culinary cheat’s dream with its light-as-air flakiness. I’ve also made it with a commercial ready-made raw pizza crust; either way it’s a treat, bursting with robust Mediterranean flavors. I like to sprinkle it with a few drops of balsamic vinegar just before eating but it isn’t essential.
If you can’t find tiny black Niçoise olives, use dry oil-cured or Kalamata black olives. I prefer the pitted ones for safety reasons.
PISSALADIERE (Caramelized Onion Tart with Anchovies and Black Olives)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
2lb (900g) of sweet yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 or two teaspoons of honey
A sprig of fresh thyme
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
9 or 10 anchovy fillets
10- 12 black olives (preferably Niçoise, oil-cured or Kalamata but definitely not the tasteless ones from a can)
One sheet, or 8 oz (230g) of frozen puff pastry, defrosted
Balsamic vinegar to serve (optional)
Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saute pan over a medium low heat. Add the onions, thyme and honey and a good grind of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper – stir everything well to combine. Turn the heat to very low and cook the onions, stirring every 15 minutes or so until they’ve softened. Turn up the heat a bit and stir more frequently until they turn golden in color – they need to caramelize, not turn brown. This can take 45 minutes to an hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the pastry base:
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until you have a rectangle measuring about 10 x 12 inches (25cm x 30cm), or make individual rectangles.
Pre-heat the oven to 400F (200C).
Carefully transfer the pastry to the baking sheet and brush the edges with a little beaten egg and then fold them in 1/2 inch (7mm) to create a rim. Brush beaten egg over the folded edges and prick the base all over with a fork.
Spoon the caramelized onions into the pastry. Arrange the anchovies and olives on top and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden.
Serve warm, perhaps sprinkled with a little balsamic vinegar.