Pizza became the most common confinement food, I discovered in an unofficial poll. In my former one kilometer of freedom I counted 25 restaurants offering pizza for take-away. Makes sense. Pizza is easy to transport, and as I walked, I would see people trundling rapidly through the streets avoiding other humans, slipping around corners, furtively looking right or left all the while balancing small towers of pizza boxes.
Even as “deconfinement” allows an increasing number of restaurants to offer dishes for pick-up and delivery, pizza is still king.
Pizza is easy to transport, but I wonder at its taste once it gets home. I haven’t ordered pizza for eons, but I have vague memories of it arriving tepid, its flavor having exchanged molecules with the cardboard box it sat in. I think it is more fun than tasty to order pizza. So why not make your own? It’s so easy and it will NEVER have even a hint of cardboard flavor.
I’m offering you two recipes here, one for what passes as pizza but is actually a savory tart. It’s called pissaladière, and it began life as a pizza-type dish all along the Câte d’Azur. You can still find it there – and throughout the country – with a bread dough base. But I like it with pastry as its “dough”, and it’s easier and quicker to make that way too.
The name Pissaladière comes from “pissalat,” the anchovy purée which was a staple in the Niçoise kitchen. Today pissalat is rare, but gorgeous anchovy fillets aren’t, and that’s what you’ll want for the recipe. Get those from Collioure if you can find them; if not, get the best you can find, preferably packed in oil. You will love them here.
If a more traditional pizza is what you really want, with a bready foundation instead of a crackling one, turn to the recipe here for flammekueche, Alsace’s famous answer to pizza.
For those of you who have been to the lovely, rolling region of Alsace on France’s easternmost border, you know that the cuisine there leans heavily to pork and dairy, with generous grindings of pepper and wonderful bread. Flammekueche includes all of the above, with a shower of paper-thin onion slices to boot.
This particular dish originated on the Alsatian farm, where a bread oven was kindled once a week. The farmer made the bread and before the flames had died down, he rolled out a fistful of dough paper-thin, spread fresh cheese or cream on it, then showered it with onions, bacon, and pepper and baked it right in the flames. Thus, the name flammekueche or Tarte Flambée, and the burnt edges.
He and his farm hands cut wedges, rolled them up and washed down mouthfuls with frothy beer, and that is still the best way to enjoy it. \
Bon Appétit from (relative) freedom. Keep cooking!
One 9-1/2-inch ; 24cm tart shellmade with Tender Tart Pastry (see recipe), pre-baked
3slightly underripe tomatoescored and cut into thin slices
20cured black oliveswith pits
To pre-bake the pastry, roll it out to fit a 9-1/2-inch (24cm) removable bottom tart pan. There will be pastry overlapping the tart pan. Trim it, then crimp the edges. Reserve any excess pastry for another use. Chill the pastry for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C).
To bake the pastry, pierce it all over with the tip of a sharp knife, line it with aluminum foil and pastry weights, set it on a baking sheet and bake until the edges are golden in the center of the oven, which will take about 12 minutes. Remove the pastry from the oven, remove the weights, and return the pastry to the oven and bake until the bottom is a pale golden, about 5 additional minutes. Remove from the oven and reserve.
Place the onions and the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Toss so the onions are coated with the oil and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely tender and sweet, about 40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the onions to the pre-baked shell, spreading them evenly across the bottom.
Arrange the tomato slices in slightly overlapping concentric circles over the onions. Arrange the anchovy fillets atop the tomatoes, making 9 crosses with them. Evenly distribute the olives on the top of the pissaladière, pressing them gently into the tart so they don’t roll off. Carefully place the baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake until the tart is hot through and slightly golden on top and the tomatoes are tender, 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove the tart from the oven and remove the sides of the pan. Let the tart cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Remind diners that the olives in the tart have pits in them.
6ounces;180gslab bacon, rind removedcut into matchstick pieces
Preheat the oven to 450 F (230C).
Spread the onion mixture over the dough right to the edge. Sprinkle the bacon evenly over the top.
Combine the onion, cheese, crème fraiche, salt, pepper and nutmeg and let sit for 15 minutes to soften the onions.
Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 10-1/2 inch (27cm) circle and place it on a lightly flour or semolina-dusted baking sheet.
Bake until the dough is crisp and the bacon is browned, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately, dusted with pepper if you like.
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TENDER BREAD DOUGH - PATE A PAIN TENDR
This is a no-fail recipe that makes a tender, light loaf. I use it as a base for just about all my recipes that call for dough, such as the buns for PAN BAGNA (page xx) or the dough for Flammekeuche (page xx). It’s a winning recipe, and once you’ve made it you’ll put it in your “favorites” file.
3tablespoons;45gunsalted buttersoftened, or olive oil,
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle, whisk the yeast into the water along with ½ cup (70g) flour. Let the mixture sit just until it begins to bubble, then add the salt and stir. Gradually add 2 cups (265g) flour, then stir in the olive oil. Add enough remaining flour to make a dough that is firm but not at all dry. Knead the dough until it is smooth and satiny, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Place the dough in a bowl, cover with a dampened tea towel, and let it rise at room temperature (68-80F; 20-27) until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. ( At this point, the dough is ready to be shaped as you like, after punching it down).
Punch down the dough and shape it into a round loaf, 5-inches (13cm) in diameter or an oblong loaf 9-inches (23cm) long and set it on a floured baking sheet to rise, or line a conventional loaf pan (9 x5x3; 23x13x7.5cm) cover and let rise again until almost doubled in bulk, about 20 minutes. If you are making buns for Pan Bagnat (page xx), then cut the dough into 6 equal-sized pieces and set them about 3-inches (7.5cm) apart on a flour-dusted or parchment-covered baking sheet. Pat the dough into rounds that measure about 5 inches (12.5cm) across. Let them rise until nearly doubled in bulk, about 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
Prepare the egg wash if using: whisk together the egg and water until foamy.
Paint the top of the formed bread dough or buns with the egg wash and bake. If you’re making one loaf, you’ll want to slash it several times with a very sharp knife, about ¼-inch deep (.63cm) deep, to allow the steam to escape during baking. Bake until the loaf is golden and sounds hollow, about 30 minutes. (For buns, bake until they are golden puffed, about 20 minutes).
Turn the bread out onto a cooling rack and let it cool thoroughly before slicing.