CHUsday: Some Experiments are Not Worth Repeating.

When I arrived at our summer cottage in early August I found enough onions in residence to do some serious planning.  Since I was on a mission to use the cookbooks (old and new) that I’d brought with me, none of which had ever been used at all, I immediately looked up onions for something new, thereby killing nine onions with one recipe.

Oddly enough, I had just finished writing a chapter of One Mountain Away in which one of my characters orders a pissadeliere.  There in The Healthy Hedonist, by Myra Kornfeld, was a recipe for the real thing, a French onion tart, and yes indeed, it called for twelve cups of sliced onions.  I was in business.

Weeks went by.  I was busy, and the steps looked complicated.  Twelve cups of onions?  That’s a lot of slicing.  Roasting a red pepper to remove the skin?  I hemmed and hawed but with summer waning, I invited neighbors for a pizza night on our porch and set out to make my pissaladiere along with a more standard tomato, mozzarella and basil version, just in case.

My first instincts were correct.  Even though I used a food processor to make the dough, and to slice about nine onions, caramelizing them took about an hour and a half, with frequent stirring.  It was fun, though, to watch 12 cups cook down to perhaps 1/2 cup of finished product.  And I’d brought thyme from my Virginia herb garden which was still fresh and a nice addition.  The red pepper roasting went well under my broiler, but I kept thinking fondly of the jar of roasted red peppers at home in my pantry.  SO much easier to open a jar.

I made a couple of changes in the recipe.  I elected to use my favorite pizza dough recipe from Giada deLaurentiis instead of the one in the book.  I did, though, use half whole wheat flour, which approximated the one in The Healthy Hedonist.  I don’t have a pizza stone here, and the baking method in the book sounded like a lot of work, so I just used my usual large sheet pan in a 500 degree oven.   I also used half the anchovies, just in case.

That final instinct was correct.  As my neighbors arrived I asked them how they felt about anchovies (note to self: next time ask BEFORE using anchovies ) and found only one taker.  Anchovies were religiously picked off and discarded.  Oh well.

The final product was good, and attractive–see photo above.  But would I make it again?  Well, the bottom was soggy, but I can’t blame this on the cookbook, since I deviated in the way I baked it.  And though I enjoy anchovies and olives, I found this a bit salty for my taste, even with the contrast of the sweet caramelized onions.  I also learned a lesson about anchovies and other people’s appetites.  Add all that to the time it took and next time, I think I’ll wait until I get to France and eat my fill of pissaladiere at a lovely little sidewalk cafe with a glass of good wine. 

On the plus side?  Our pantry is now empty of onions.  My neighbors enjoyed the pissaladiere, although not nearly as much as the simpler pizza I threw together in ten minutes, and they hung out on my porch for hours afterwards.  I used a new cookbook and look forward to using it again, since the instructions were easy and the recipes healthy and varied.

Best of all, I had the chance to tell you about it here.  Now you try a new recipe from an old cookbook and tell us about the experience.  Lucky Lee Ann Lively won last month’s giveaway, but there’s another this month. 

Meantime, if your mouth is watering and pissaladiere sounds like something YOU can’t resist–or if you, too, have been gifted with a bag of lovely onions, here’s a highly-rated recipe from Epicurious which is very similar to the one I used.  Or maybe you’ll find a recipe in a French cookbook your great-aunt bought you on a trip to Paris that you haven’t opened in years.  Make it and let us know, so you, too will be a member of Cookbook Hoarders United.


  1. Kay Myhrman-Toso on September 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I know what you mean about the time & careful watching that it takes to caramelize onions. I tried a new appetizer recipe for our annual Epiphany party…carmelized onions, puff pastry, brie, caraway seeds. Yum! Yes, it was definitely a keeper, but no I’m not trying to sneak this in as trialing a new recipe! It does, however have a book connection: I listened to a book on CD while s-l-o-w-l-y caramelizing those onions! You may not be repeating your recipe, but I’ll bet your neighbors have wonderful memories of both your hospitality & conversation! In the end, that’s what counts the most!

    • Emilie Richards on September 6, 2011 at 4:45 pm

      Now that sounds scrumptious. And a book on CD sounds like the perfect way to do it. I clean to audiobooks and actually look forward to the work.

  2. Lorri Chambers on September 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I haven’t cooked anything from a cookbook lately wasn’t trained that way , my mom did all the time but it was mainly the betty crocker I think the pink and white gingham one ….But I love what I learned alot from watching my great grandmother and nanna cooking on the farm.

    Anyway I digress…my favorite onion memory is from a restaurant when I was in High school in Va, A friend of mine and her parents took me to see Pippin at the Kennedy center and we went to LeGrande Scene French restuarant for lunch….Omgoodness the French Onion soup was to die for and I was only 16 or 17 at the time , yet at that early age I knew it was time to start enjoying food in a different way. I have never had any like it since although i have tried many, but my love of melted gooey cheese was cultivated that day and the love of a good rich broth…

    just had to share and no I don’t like anchovies either but would eat them if they were on something to be polite…

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