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Pissaladiere with spiced ricotta, radicchio and poached apricots

Time2 hours 30 minutes
YieldsMakes 24 pieces
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Years ago, when I was in college in upstate New York and couldn’t return home to Texas for the holidays, I attended a Thanksgiving potluck at a schoolmate’s house. Thanks in great part to my lack of planning, I single-handedly ruined the meal.

At the time, those seated around the table were too kind to point fingers. But I’d been asked to bring the potatoes, and my naive contribution -- mashed potatoes in a household of sweet potato devotees -- left a palpable sadness in the air.

I sometimes imagine that family gathered in subsequent years, whispering to one another as they passed that year’s bounty back and forth. “Remember that terrible Thanksgiving when we didn’t have sweet potatoes at all?” They should never have trusted a newcomer with such a crucial mission.

In hindsight, I should’ve discussed my dish with the host beforehand. Had I done so, I would’ve brought both types of potatoes -- there’s no Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes where I come from.

Now I know to do my research. Being a gracious and memorable Thanksgiving potluck guest requires just two things: Bring a showstopper of a dish and stay out from under the host’s feet.

When picking a dish to bring, imagine foods that fill a niche or have an air of surprise. Another stuffing is always well-received, for instance, so a warm barley and kale salad with roasted pears and candied prosciutto might be a welcome alternative to another bread-based filling.

A side dish hearty enough to double as a vegetarian entree hits the mark, too -- think sweet potato cakes topped with a creamy, sage-scented mushroom ragout. That is, unless you’re asked to bring a specific dish, in which case you’ll do best to respect the host’s wishes.

Low-maintenance dishes served at room temperature, like a savory pissaladiere with radicchio and spiced ricotta, or food you can reheat in its serving vessel in the microwave are perfect potluck choices.

If, on the other hand, your dish requires refrigerator or oven space at your host’s home, or even more so a burner on the stove or countertop space, arrange those details ahead of time. Chances are your host is preparing the regal bird and will have his or her hands -- and oven -- occupied when you arrive.

Equally important at a Thanksgiving potluck -- as important a potluck as ever there was -- are logistics, so keep in mind the distance you’ll be traveling. Choose a dish that’s not particularly fragile and that doesn’t have too many moving parts. To that end, preparing a dessert like, say, delicate meringues with three garnishes would be risky.

This year, I’m celebrating two Thanksgiving dinners with family, both of them potlucks. I’m still mulling over my options. One thing’s for sure, though. I’ll not be bringing the potatoes.

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1

Combine 1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees), the sugar and yeast in a small, non-reactive bowl and set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir in 3 tablespoons oil and the yeast mixture until a sticky dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Grease a large, clean bowl with 1 teaspoon oil, place the dough inside and cover with a towel. Set aside in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

2

Sprinkle cornmeal over the bottom of a 15-by-10-inch baking sheet. Stretch the dough into a large rectangle and arrange on the baking sheet, pulling and stretching to ensure dough entirely covers bottom of sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; set aside and let rise for 45 minutes.

3

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, one-quarter teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add one-third cup wine and cook, stirring to remove any bits of flavoring from the bottom of the pan, until the wine is absorbed, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

4

In a small pot, combine the apricots, remaining 1 cup wine, vinegar, honey and one-fourth teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the apricots are very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and drain, discarding the liquid. Set aside.

5

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, 5-spice powder and three-fourths teaspoon salt and set aside.

6

Scatter the onions over the risen dough and bake until edges are golden, about 10 minutes. Spoon the ricotta onto the dough and spread out roughly with the back of a spoon. In a large bowl, toss together the radicchio, apricots, remaining 2 teaspoons oil, one-half teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper, or to taste, then arrange on top of ricotta. Bake until dough is cooked through and radicchio is wilted and crispy in parts, about 10 minutes more. Remove pan, cool on a rack. (Recipe can be prepared to this point up to 1 day in advance and kept tightly covered in refrigerator.)

7

Bring to room temperature. Just before serving, toss the herbs with the lemon juice, one-eighth teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper, or to taste, and scatter the herbs over the top. Cut into squares and serve.

Use dried figs instead of apricots, if you like. The pissaladiere can be baked and prepared through step 6 one day in advance (the onions and apricots can be cooked one day in advance of the rest of the recipe) and refrigerated, loosely covered with plastic wrap. Bring to room temperature before adding herbs and serving.