The aperitif hour: Marseille's panisse
Nice has its socca, those thin chickpea pancakes. Down the Mediterranean coast in Marseille the classic is panisse, or fried chickpea cakes. I love them both. And while I often make socca, I’d never tried making my own panisse until a few days ago. I hauled out my well-thumbed copy of “Made in Marseille: Food and Flavors from France’s Mediterranean Seaport” by Daniel Young (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2002).
The Francophile author explains that “panisses were particularly trendy in the 1930s around Marseille’s Old Port as a snack, or paired with a salad as a meal .... Prepared with a porridge-like batter of chickpea flour, the interior of a fried panisse is almost comparable to fried cheese in its creaminess.”
Basically, you’re making a chickpea porridge, stirring all the while just like you would for polenta, but in this case, it takes only 10 minutes, not 40.
I opted for the easy method of cutting them -- spreading the porridge out on an oiled baking sheet, chilling it for a couple of hours and then cutting it into shapes with a cookie cutter.
You don’t need a deep fryer, just a good skillet with 1/4 inch of oil (I used grapeseed oil.) It’s really very easy. The only trouble I had was that my porridge was lumpy. Lumpy! So after it finished cooking, I passed it through a coarse sieve. I emailed Young to find out what I did wrong: Instead of adding the flour all at once as I did, the trick is to sprinkle it into the water, stirring all the while. [Recipe follows after the jump.]
From Daniel Young's “Made in Marseille: Food and Flavors from France’s Mediterranean Seaport”.
Makes 4 to 6 servings:
2 cups chickpea flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Sift the chickpea flour and combine in a large saucepan with 1 quart hot — but not boiling — water and the olive oil. Heat over moderately high heat, mixing continuously with a whisk until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble. Switch to a spoon and cook, stirring continuously for 10 minutes more.
2. Spread the mixture on an oiled baking sheet to a depth of 1/3 inch, cover with a dish towel and refrigerate for 2 hours. Just before frying, cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, biscuit cutter or small jar.
3. Heat some frying oil in a skillet (the oil should be about 1/4 inch deep) over moderately high heat. Fry the panisses in small batches until golden, about 1-1/2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately on a dish, or better yet in a paper cone.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photos: panisse. Credit: S. Irene Virbila/Los Angeles Times.