My first experience eating pissaladière was exquisite – an experience I knew I’d always remember. It was May of 2002. My older daughter had just graduated from high school, and we took her and her sister on a tour of eastern France, from Nice in the south, ending in Paris two weeks later.
I’d always insisted that we would take the kids to Europe – anywhere in Europe – before they left home, and this was finally that trip. My husband had suggested we start with France because I’d lived there, and spoke some French still.
We booked the tour with Rick Steves – a tour company I highly recommend for many reasons. For one thing, there are only 24 people on these trips. For another, someone else does the driving for you and, the hotel reservations have been made and confirmed. And trust me, we are not “tour” people. Plus, half of the time, you’re on your own.
The name of Rick Steves tour company is Europe Through the Back Door. It’s not a traditional tour in that you get to see Europe as the Europeans do. Unless your specific tour focuses only on cities, you’re taken on back roads into villages and areas that the larger tours don’t and can’t take you. It’s very insightful and the experiences unique.
My husband and I have driven in Europe by ourselves, without a guide, but you miss out on a lot of information. Some friends I know are really good at studying before and during their trips, but my husband and I aren’t like that.
The tour guides for Rick Steves are incredibly knowledgeable people. You don’t work for him if you’re not skilled in the language, and passionate about the arts, the politics, history, and much more. We’ve also used Rick Steves in Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, and Scotland.
So back in 2002, we began our Eastern France tour by visiting Vieux Nice. After two days, we headed out of the city to Èze and had a picnic. And that’s where our guide served us local specialties that included pissaladière, which you can see in the photo on the right.
So that was my first experience. The weather was perfect, the view just stunning, my family was there and happy, and we were finally all in France!
To recreate the pissaladière, I used the recipe in this cookbook.
I’ve seen recipes that use pizza dough and also puff pastry, but whatever kind of crust, caramelized onions, anchovies and Niçoise olives are always on top.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter
1 large egg
About 2 tablespoons ice water
Scant 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
2 or 3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cloves
20 – 25 small anchovy fillets
About 15 Niçoise or other small black olives
At least 2 hours before you wish to serve the tart, make the pastry: Place the flour and salt in a bowl. Use the coarse side of a box grater to grate the butter into the bowl, then toss with the flour.
Use a knife or pastry cutter to cut in the butter so that you have small buttery crumbs.
(Or, use a food processor!)
Break the egg into the bowl and mix in lightly with a fork. Add the ice water, starting with 2 tablespoons, tossing and mixing to moisten the flour. If necessary, add more water, just enough so that the dough comes together in a mass when you pull it together.
Transfer to a heavy plastic bag. Press from outside the bag to make a flat disk about 6 inches across. Seal well and refrigerate while you prepare the topping (the dough can be made up to 2 days ahead).
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a shallow 13-by-9-inch baking pan.
To prepare the topping, heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet. Add the onions, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and cloves and cook over medium heat, turning frequently, until the onions wilt and soften.
Lower the heat slightly and continue to cook: After they release their liquid, the onions will soften further, but as the liquid evaporates, the onions may start to stick – add a little water as necessary to prevent sticking (1/4 cup, or perhaps a little more).
The whole cooking process will take about an hour.
When done, the onions will be very soft and sweet-tasting. Remove from the heat, and remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
While the onions are cooking, prepare the crust: Lightly flour a work surface and turn out the dough. Flatter the dough by banging on it with a lightly floured rolling pin, then roll it out to a rectangle a little larger than the baking pan, rolling from the center outward.
Transfer the dough to the baking pan and gently ease it into the corners. Trim off extra dough with a sharp knife. If necessary, use scraps of trimmings to patch any holes, pressing down on the edges of the patch to seal well. Prick the dough all over, about ten times, with a fork to prevent puffing, then line it with foil or parchment paper. Weight the foil with dried beans or pastry weights.
Bake the crust for about 10 minutes, until the edges are firm and just touched with color. Remove from the oven and remove the foil and weights.
Spread the cooked onions all over the bottom of the crust, then arrange the anchovies and olives on top.
Place the tart back in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until the edges are touched with brown and pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Let cool for at least 10 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.
I served mine with a salad, topped with a basic vinaigrette and finely grated Parmesan.
The sweetness of the onions pairs so well with the salty anchovies and olives.
It’s truly a match made in culinary heaven.
And this crust was total perfection – delicate and flavorful.
Vive la France!
Gorgeous, Mimi. I love pissaladiere. It’s wonderful in France when you can pop into a charcuterie or bakery and buy a slice for a snack lunch. I wanted to go to Eze when I was in Nice a couple of years ago but the weather wasn’t great so I didn’t go but maybe another time.
Oh, Eze is so pretty. And it’s close to the Marc Chagall museum, which I know you’d love!
Oh, I can just taste that! I love pissaladiere. Love Provence, too, must revisit soon. Lx
Oh you must! There’s so much to see.
Love it. I make this often as a light lunch or dinner. Recipe on my blog.
I missed it! I love lunches like that – pissaladiere or quiche with a salade! Perfection.
These look so good and don’t sound too difficult to make! I love French pastries so I will have to give these a try :)
Not at all! Just the hours spent caramelizing the onions!!!
Great post Mimi and The tour sounds fantastic. I am one who usually prefers to make my own way when visiting another country but you have made the case so well for being part of a tour especially one like Mr. Stevens. Your pissaladier is gorgeous and it’s been so long since I’ve had. Beautifully done and a great accomplishment.
Thank you. I understand, since we still don’t consider ourselves tour people! But we’ve always had perfect experiences and learned so much. The people on the tour have always been interesting. I like that they don’t allow young children, but there are family tours. Plus, there’s no way I could drive on the other side of the road.
I loved your pictures. We love seeing Rick Steves documentaries. The pissaladiere looks delicious too.
I’d never heard of him until someone suggested that we look into his tours. Once I did, it made sense. You do a lot of walking with your suitcase! But you sure get to see what most tourists don’t.
Pissaladière is one of my most favorite dishes. It is such a minimalist dish, yet so full of flavor. Yours looks so very tasty, and the photos are fabulous. :)
Thank you Ronit! And even better when you’re in Provence!
Beautiful food, I can only imagine how exquisite it tastes!
Simple and delicious!
Thank you for the travel tip! Looks gorgeous and my mouth is watering.
You are so welcome!
There are some terrific specialty small tour groups around, for me it’s the only way to go to destinations that have challenges. Yum, food memories from travel are the best souvenirs of all…
That’s really nice. I’ve never been a history buff, so when guides can put the local history into perspective, it’s so meaningful.
What a delicious recipe, Mimi, and one I’m eager to try. I think being first introduced on a fabulous trip to France would forever make this a favorite!
Definitely! And my girls enjoyed good food even back then, so they enjoyed their French culinary adventure as well, although they did eat a lot of croque monsieurs!
I don’t remember ever having pissalladiére, it looks divine Mimi. Thank you for this beautiful post.
Thank you Gerlinde! Simple but with spectacular, addicting flavors!
Perfect pissaladière, Mimi! One of my favorites, too, and the moment I realized … I love (not hate) anchovies! Love your crust, too. I am not a fan of the pizza dough variety.
This pastry crust was perfect – buttery, melt-in-your-mouth. I think it’s better than a pizza variety as well. I used to think i hated anchovies too. They’re just scary little things!
Lovely post, thanks for sharing this delicious recipe :)
You are so welcome!
Anchovies and olives – two of my favourite things Chef Mimi – so this is a winner for me!
Yes and yes!
I so love pissaladiere- but oh to be in Eze!
I know. It’s so pretty there!
Lovely! I love when a particular food evokes a memory. Sounds like this was a great one!
Definitely! Thank you.
Hope you had a great time Mimi. Beautiful pictures and the pissaladiere sounds delicious.
Such a fun read! Isn’t pissaladière good stuff? I don’t remember when I first tasted it, but I remember the first time I heard about it — on one of Julia Child’s TV programs in the 1980s (one of her “Company” series). Yours looks perfect — thanks.
Thank you, that’s very sweet!
Happy to see the anchovies in the traditional crosshatch pattern. That’s a nice touch. after all, it gets its name from the odd sounding (to English speaking ears) French word for puréed anchovies, Pissalat. Many people leave the anchovies out, but why would you give up the opportunity to say Pissalat? GREG
Exactly! And pissaladiere is even more fun to say!!!
I’ve never had anything quite like pissaladiere. It looks exquisite.
Then you need to make it! Simple but delicious.
I’ve never seen these but they look great. I’m going to ask Mr H (who is French) if he knows pissaladière, and it would be worth making as he’s a bit of an anchovy monster :)
I don’t know what part of France he is from, but he’s still probably familiar with pissaladiere. It would be a fun surprise if he loves anchovies!
Yes he does know pissaladiere! (he’s from the Nord) it would be fun to make it indeed!
Are you married yet?!!