Christmas Feast and Pissaladiere

We spent Christmas day with my parents this year and decided that we would try an all-day buffet instead of having a formal sit-down Christmas dinner. It was wonderful! We cooked several dishes the night before and continued to cook at a lazy pace all through the day. Usually formal dinners are a stressful “must get everything ready at the same time” which is tough for a large family with multiple cooks in a small kitchen. This year was so much more relaxed. Every few hours one of us would get up and cook something new to add to the buffet. I think we’re going to do it this way from now on.

Fresh sliced pears with good roquefort cheese, pissaladiere, and spicy sausage hot off the grill.

All through the day we had: individual frittatas with chorizo, spinach and potatoes, crackers, my mother’s famous cheese ball, home-cured ham, spicy homemade sausage on the grill, homemade pate, various pickles, sliced pears with roquefort, low-knead whole wheat rosemary bread with brie, deviled eggs, and pissaladiere.

It was a serious spread.

I am a great fan of the French “pizza” called pissaladiere.  Serious umami. I came across this recipe cruising Tastespotting and have made it a few times. A flatbread covered in caramelized onions, anchovies and olives? Oh, yes please! It’s very rich, so make sure you have a lot of friends to help you eat it. If you do the prep work in steps it’s not even that difficult. As with all simple dishes like this use the best quality ingredients you can.

If you like umami, this dish is for you.

Pissaladiere

5 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 tbl butter
2 tbl olive oil
1 tbl white balsamic vinegar
anchovies
good olives, preferably French oil cured olives

1 lb of bread dough

Get out the largest skillet or saute pan you have. If all of the onions fit well enough that you can stir without onions spilling everywhere, then you’re golden. If not, split the onions between two saute pans on the stovetop. Melt the butter and olive oil together on medium heat, then add the onions. Stir every 5 minutes until the onions are all completely soft and wilted. Then stir every 5-10 minutes until the moisture released by the onions starts to evaporate and the onions start to take some color. When you start hearing a low sizzle sprinkle with a little salt and 1 tbl of white balsamic vinegar and keep stirring. Stir every few minutes until the onions are extremely soft and the color of caramel. Set onions aside to cool.

Start with any softer bread dough that has been risen once, punched down, and left to relax for 10-15 minutes. I like to use a simple olive oil pizza crust recipe. Roll the dough out to a rectangle to almost reach the edges of your sheet pan or cookie sheet. The most successful method for me is to oil the counter and the rolling pin rather than using flour to keep it from sticking. This keeps the dough really soft and stretchy. The dough should be fairly thin in the center with a slightly raised crust. Transfer to the baking sheet.

Start heating oven to 425. Pile all of the caramelized onions on the bread and spread out, leaving the raised edges uncovered like a pizza. Take anchovies out of the jar or tin with a narrow fork and slice them in half lengthwise to make long narrow strips. Halve the olives and remove the pits.  Lay the anchovy strips out on the caramelized onions in a diamond pattern and press them in lightly with your fingers. Then put an olive half in the center of each diamond.  Give the whole thing a good sprinkle of cracked black pepper but do not add salt- the olives and anchovies both provide salt.

Bake until the edges are a medium brown and the onions are starting to brown on the edges. Let cool. Eat at room temperature. Swoon.

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