Pissaladière (Onion and Anchovy Tart)

I spent the first half of my life being afraid to attempt pastry crust until my friend Danièle Mazet-Delpeuch taught me this one, which she uses for the onion-and-anchovy tart known as pissaladière. The crust, which turns out tender and crisp, is made in no time flat in the food processor -- so easy you'll be stunned (and you'll want to use it for other things). Don't tempted to speed through the slowly caramelized onions: Doing it the right way ensures wonderful flavor.

*To make this a vegetarian dish, omit the anchovies, increase the olives to 3/4 cups and distribute them evenly on top of the tart.

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer.

Ingredients

7 medium yellow onions (about 3 pounds)

3 tablespoons olive oil

25 anchovies fillets packed in olive oil (about 1 small jar)

Half a cup of pitted niçoise olives

Four branches of thyme

Freshly ground black pepper

For the crust:

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon whole milk

1 egg, lightly beaten

Instructions

1. Peel the onions, cut them in half vertically and slice them very thin. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over low heat. Add the onions, stir them to coat with the oil, and let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they're sweet, tender, caramelized and deep golden, about 2 1/2 hours or more. Make sure the heat is kept low, so they onions don't brown. Don't be tempted to add salt: You won't need it once the tart is garnished. Once they're done, drain them well in a colander.

2. While the onions are cooking, prepare the pâte briseé. Place the flour and salt in a food processor and process a few seconds to mix. Add the butter, and pulse until the mixture looks like a coarse meal. Beat the milk into the egg, and, with the food processor's motor running, add the egg mixture. Let it process until the dough suddenly comes together and flops around the processor like a ball. Remove the dough from the processor, form it into a flattened ball, sprinkle it with flour, wrap it in plastic film, place it in the fridge and let it rest for at least a half hour.

3. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Let the dough sit at room temperature five minutes or so to soften. Roll it out on a lightly floured board about 1/8-inch thick to a 13-inch diameter circle. Fit the circle into a 10-inch flute-edged removable bottom tart pan, pressing the dough lightly into the corners. Trim the dough to be flush with the top of the pan, and press the dough gently into the fluted sides. Prick the bottom with a fork in several places. 

4. Turn the drained onions into the dough-lined tart pan and spread them evenly. Decorate the top of the tart with the anchovy fillets in a cross-hatch pattern, slicing fatter ones in half vertically when necessary. At each anchovy intersection, place an olive. Remove the leaves from the thyme and scatter them over the top of the tart. 

5. Bake until the crust is golden-brown, about 35 minutes.