Pissaladière

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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.


Pissaladière

Pastry
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

Topping
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
Water
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!

Festive Pork Loin

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This pork loin isn’t festive in that it’s holiday-oriented, it’s just festive because it’s a perfect dish for a celebration. The more correct name would be Moscato-Braised Pork Loin with Prosciutto and Gruyère.

The recipe came from the book Rotis, by Stephane Reynaud. I had previously purchased his cookbook Barbecue & Grill, and enjoyed it, so I decided to try another one of his books. He’s quite the prolific cookbook writer if you check him out on Amazon. He has one book called Tripe. I might pass on that one…
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In any case, I’ve bookmarked many recipes from Rotis, and decided to make this pork loin first. It’s prepared quite simply – browned and braised along with white port. I couldn’t find white port, so I substituted a syrupy moscato I’ve used in sangrias, called Electra, by Quady Vineyards.

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I also really liked the addition of bacon and Comté in this roast, but American bacon isn’t the same as the European bacon, so I substituted Prosciutto. Canadian bacon would probably be a more exact substitution. Furthermore, I used Gruyère in place of the Comté.

The presentation is very pretty. It would be a good dish for company if you use an in-the-oven temperature probe. Then there’s just a melting of the cheese and you’re ready to serve.

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Moscato-Braised Pork Loin with Prosciutto and Gruyere
adapted from Rotis by Stephane Reynaud

4 tablespoons bacon fat, divided
2 purple onions, thinly sliced into rings
Pork loin, approximately 2 pounds 10 ounces
Salt, pepper
7 ounces Moscato, or any dessert wine
6 slices Prosciutto
12 ounces Gruyère, sliced into 6 pieces
Thyme, fresh or dried

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

First, sauté the onion rings in 2 tablespoons of bacon fat over medium heat in a large skillet until they’re caramelized. Set them aside.

Next, have your pork loin close to room temperature. Trim a little of the fat if necessary. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in a roasting pan over high heat. Have your ventilation on. Roast the pork loin on one side. Then turn over and sear the other side until well browned.

I also brown the “sides.” After all the browning is complete, pour in the Moscato.

Place the roasting pan in the oven. Use an oven probe if you have one, and set it for 145 degrees. This took about an hour, but I would use a thermometer to prevent overcooking.

About 4 times during this hour I basted the pork with the ever-reducing Moscato jus.
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At the point where the thermometer registers 145 degrees, remove the pork from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes. Have your slices of cheese and Prosciutto handy.
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Using a sharp knife, cut into the pork in 6 evenly-spaced crosswise slices, about 2/3 down.

Stuff the prosciutto into the openings.
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Then stuff the sliced cheese, and top everything with the caramelized onion rings.
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Return to the oven until the cheese melts, which took about 15 minutes.
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Remove from the oven, place the pork on a cutting board, and drizzle on any remaining jus from the roasting pan.

Let the pork rest for at least ten minutes, and then cut the 7 slices of pork loin for serving.


Because of the more involved recipe of this pork loin, I served it simply with steamed Brussels sprouts.
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Make sure the serving of pork includes some Prosciutto, Gruyère, and onions. Sprinkle the servings with fresh or dried thyme, and add a little more black pepper.

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note: The above doesn’t show the pork quite like it was when I first prepared the serving on the plate, because I had to keep microwaving the cheese to get it to re-melt for the photos! It was a cold evening, and I guess I just wasn’t fast enough with the camera. Plus it had already gotten dark outside; lesson learned. But if you don’t allow pork to cook beyond 155 degrees, it will be moist, and slightly pink.

Hair of the Dog Breakfast

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Not that I would ever need a hair-of-the-dog kind of breakfast (!) but this is it for me if I was ever in need of one. What’s better than eggs, liver, onions, and all of that topped off with a bloody mary?!!!

Now I promised there would be at least one liver post in 2013, and this is it. I happen to be a fan. Maybe some of you should give it a try, after all, it’s really inexpensive!

I think liver and eggs are the only reasons I made it out of college alive, because they were all I could afford. Eggs were cheap, and a carton of beef liver cost under a dollar and could stretch me three meals. (This was back in the 70’s.)

These days, eggs are a little more expensive, but liver is still cheap.

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I prefer beef liver with my eggs, as opposed to chicken liver, which I use only to make pâté. I prefer the texture of beef liver, and the servings are good-sized. So here’s what I did the morning after my last holiday hurrah:

Liver and Eggs
to serve 2

3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, halved, then sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 “slabs” beef liver, blotted dry on paper towels
2 eggs, or 4, if you prefer

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onions until they are nice and brown, about five minutes; place them in a bowl and keep warm.

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Heat 2 more tablespoons of butter in the same skillet and cook 2 slices of liver. Give them at least a minute on one side, then turn them over. I usually turn down the heat slightly and cook a little more on the second side. I like mine rare, but I don’t want the liver too seared on the outsides, with raw insides.

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Remove the liver to a plate, and then cook the eggs; there should be enough butter in the skillet to cook them. If not, add a little more butter.

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To serve, place a liver slice on a plate, put your cooked egg next to it, and top everything with the onions. Don’t forget the bloody mary!