You’ll love this simple savory tart, another menu item from the “Happy Birthday, Julia Child” dinner party on August 15 (see August 16 post).
Her version starts with a rich pate brisee tart crust and, while it would have been easy to veganize, popping vegan puff pastry dough out of a Pepperidge Farm box was easier still. A poorly trained chimp could turn it into a beautiful tart shell, complete with a raised rim, following my so-easy-its-almost-embarrassing method.
Child’s original filling is made of meltingly sweet caramelized onions (with the barest hint of cloves) dotted with oil-cured black olives and anchovy fillets. Other than the obvious decision to omit the anchovies–which weren’t missed a bit, as they always reminded me of bait–I decided to slice, rather than dice, the onion. It saved hands-on time and looked really lovely.
I also dispensed with the herb bouquet of fresh parsley, dried thyme and bay leaf, as I didn’t have cheesecloth or bay leaf. But I did stir parsley and thyme into the filling and I can’t imagine that the end result was in any way inferior to the original. We devoured it, er, I mean we savored it slowly with our French wine.
1 box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets (remove both sheets from box and bag and thaw for about 40 minutes, covered, on the counter top)
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
approximately 3 1/2 pounds of white or yellow onions (about 3 1/2 large onions), quartered and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
3-4 large cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
Coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
6-8 fresh parsley sprigs, minced (you can use a little dried to taste in a pinch)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
a couple of pinches of ground cloves (about a scant 1/4 teaspoon–the cloves should be a VERY subtle background note, not pronounced at all)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
approximately 25-30 oil-cured black olives, pitted, and sliced in half
Optional: 1 additional tablespoon of olive oil
Optional garnish: thyme or rosemary sprigs
Make filling: heat oil to shimmering in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt. Saute, stirring fairly frequently, for about 50 minutes or until rich golden-brown and incredibly sweet (you really do cook them that long). Stir in parsley and thyme and saute for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in parsley, thyme, cloves, pepper and more salt to taste. Cool slightly.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil two baking sheets or line them with Silpats. Carefully unfold one sheet of pastry on each of the baking sheets. With a knife, gently score a line about one-half inch from the edge of the crusts all the way around, making sure not to cut all the way through the dough. Using a fork, generously but gently prick inside the scored line. Place baking sheets on separate racks, one shelf below and one above the center so that the crust on the bottom has plenty of room to rise. Bake crusts for approximately 20 minutes (check after 15) until golden brown and very puffed, rotating sheets after 10 minutes.
Remove crusts from oven, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, and use the back of a spoon to gently crush down the puffed area inside the scored lines leaving a raised half-inch rim all the way around. Divide onions evenly between crusts, spreading to inside edge of rims, and scatter olives over the tops. Drizzle with the last tablespoon of oil if desired. Bake just until heated through, about 10 minutes, rotating pans if one seems to be baking too quickly. Remove pans to wire racks to cool slightly. Slide pissaladieres onto platters and cut into 4 or 9 squares each.
If not using crusts immediately, remove from oven to wire racks to cool. When ready to use–best if within two-three hours–precede with recipe beginning with crushing down the puffed areas and baking for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
Source: Adapted from Julia Child’s Pissaladiere Nicoise as published in Bon Appetit, August 2009