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On Your Mark, Get Set: Don’t Cry For Me Little Fishies

2011 March 8

By Allison Radecki

Onions!As I begin this relay, I feel I should disclose some important information. I’m pregnant—a little over seven months pregnant, to be precise.

Friends and family members are constantly asking me if any strange food cravings have crept into my daily food routines, other than the desire to drink Whole Milk as if it were my job and peeling mountains of navel oranges to snack on, I’m sorry to disappoint. No pickles and ice cream combos for this mom-to-be.

Yet, when I glimpsed Catherine and Chad’s delicious Cherry Beef Stew creation on last week’s relay, the onions in the dish leapt out at me and begged to be paired with a rather unusual bedfellow—at least as far as many American palates are concerned. I’m talking about anchovies. Oh yes, anchovies— the wee little fish that often instill fear in the hearts of many usually adventurous eaters.

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Now, unless I’m whisking together a classic Caesar salad or preparing a Northern Italian bagna cauda, anchovies don’t play a huge role in my kitchen. Yet, once the onions started talking to me (with the anchovies’ salty voices harmonizing in the background) I decided that adapting a recipe where anchovies appear, but do not immediately disclose themselves to the eater, would be my goal.

Fear not the fish is the motto for this week’s relay. You won’t even know they’re there. I swear!

Pissaladiére is a traditional Mediterranean tart that is best translated as a simple onion pizza, though a pizza without any cheese. The name derives from the Provençal word for salt fish, pissalo, thus bringing the anchovy connection straight to the forefront with its onion compatriots. Some recipes call for draping full fillets of anchovies on top of the cooked onion (a request that may seem one step too far to many home cooks…).  I decided to turn down the volume and use concentrated anchovy paste instead to provide all of the flavor and none of the visual evidence of the kingdom beneath the sea.

Perfuming my home with the yeasty scent of baking bread seemed like a wonderful way to combat the last lingering days of winter. Using organic onions, which store so well in the colder months, also allowed me to feel as if I wasn’t ignoring the seasonality of what was available to me during the time that snow covers the ground.

Though Pissaladiére can be made in a pinch with frozen puff pastry, I decided that making pizza dough from scratch would be well worth it. Plus, tinkering with Julia Della Croce’s milk and egg yeast dough from her wonderful book, Italian Home Cooking, would allow me to use one of the ridiculously fresh and orange-yolked eggs that my family and I buy from Valley Fall Farm in Johnsonburg, New Jersey.

Check back on Thursday for the full, delicious story…