Thursday, February 13, 2014

Olympic Party (2): Pissaladiere Tartlets

A few months ago, I received a review copy of Le Petit Paris by Nathalie Benezet (Hardie Grant Books). I hung onto it for a while before sharing my thoughts because I thought the contents would be perfect for my Olympic party to represent France!

There are lots of small bites featured in the book that would be appropriate for a party like mine, although for day-to-day cooking, this book would be less useful. Its really for entertaining as far as I can see. You aren't going to make tiny little Steaks au Poivre just for fun. You're going to make them for guests.

I narrowed down my choices for what to make for the party at hand, and finally settled on the Pissaladiere Tartlets. Pissaladiere is a Provencal tart/pizza that features onions, olives, and anchovies. I thought these would be fun and cute, and not necessarily the typical dish people would expect for France.

Although the recipe was easy enough to follow, it required some discretion in making adjustments because some of the amounts for ingredients seemed wrong to me. For example, this recipe makes 36 tartlets (really 35). It calls for 6 pitted olives, halved (resulting in 12 pieces) and 4 anchovies, halved lengthwise (resulting in 8 pieces). And then it says to put a piece on each tarlet. This math would NEVER work. Here's the crux of the problem, and fortunately, I have a good enough grasp on simple math that I was able to adjust this appropriately.

Instead I sliced olives into 3 pieces (making them more size-appropriate than halving as well), and halved the anchovies both lengthwise and crosswise--essentially quartering them (again, making them more size-appropriate). The recipe below includes my adjustments.

As far as flavor goes, the tartlets were good when they were hot, but once they inevitably cooled, they just fell a little flat. They were probably the least popular dish I served. They really do need to be served hot, otherwise they just taste so-so. The presentation is cute, but they really don't sit very well if you're setting up a buffet style event as I did.

That said, this recipe could easily be an exception to the rest of the book. There are still other recipes that intrigue me that I hope to try in the future, and I will happily give the book another chance to prove itself. Unfortunately, however, as I said before, the recipes in this book are solely appropriate for entertaining, so I will need another fitting occasion to whip something up. It's a fun book, and if you're interested in French cooking and entertaining, and you're looking for something outside of the box, check it out, but otherwise it might be worth skipping.

Pissaladiere Tartlets
Makes 35
(Adapted from Le Petit Paris)

For the shortcrust pastry:
300 g (10 1/2 oz / 2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
175 g (6 oz / 3/4 cup) chilled, unsalted butter, cubed
Pinch salt
1 egg yolk

For the filling:
15 g (1/2 oz / 1 T.) butter
1 teaspoon olive oil, plus more for brushing
375 g (13 oz / 1 1/2 cups) onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
9 anchovies, halved lengthwise and crosswise
12 pitted olives, such as Kalamata, sliced into thirds

To make the pastry, place the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons cold water (I ended up requiring more like 6 tablespoons) and pulse again until the dough just starts to come together. Transfer to a floured surface and knead to bring together. Shape the pastry into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and thyme, cover and cook over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened but now browned. Season and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a 7 by 10-inch rectangle. Cut the pastry into 35 rectangles (cutting into 1-inch slices on the short end and 2-inch slices the opposite way along the long end to make 1 by 2-inch rectangles. Place them on the baking sheets.

Brush each piece with a little olive oil, then spread some onions on top. Arrange a little strip of anchovy and a slice of olive on each one. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the dough is cooked and lightly browned. Serve hot or warm.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.


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