Riviera-Style Chickpea Fries
Aliza Green, Philadelphia-based chef and culinary tour leader, presents new recipes to try.
Riviera-Style Chickpea Fries (Panisses)
In the early eighties, I immersed myself in studying Italian and even proposed translating the classic (and still not translated) cookbook, Le Ricette Regionali d’Italia (The Regional Recipes of Italy). According to author Anna Gosetti della Salda, if you go visit the seaside city of Savona from April to September and try the frying places (friggitorie), you can taste this rustic but superb specialty. Alice Water’s Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse, commemorates this dish in its French name, immortalized by the great Provençal writer Marcel Pagnol.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil extra-virgin
- 1½ cups chickpea flour
- 4 cups cold water
- 4 cups sunflower, grapeseed, canola or vegetable oil for deep-frying
- sea salt to taste
- black pepper freshly ground, to taste
- Generously brush an 8 x 8-inch square cake pan with the olive oil. Place the chickpea flour into a bowl and vigorously whisk in the cold water. Keep whisking until you have a smooth paste. Pour the batter into a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
- Cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens and comes away from the side of the pan (as with polenta). Remove from the heat and beat until very smooth. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the oiled pan and cool, then chill, covered, in the refrigerator.
- When ready to finish the dish, cut the cold batter into 21/2-inch sticks (like French fries). Heat the peanut oil to 365°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Fry about one-fourth of the sticks at a time. When they are crispy, golden, and covered with blisters, remove them carefully using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
- Optional: To finish, preheat the broiler. Arrange the chickpea fries in a single layer on a shallow baking pan and sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and ½-cup grated Parmigiano, Pecorino, or Asia cheese. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned and crusty. Serve immediately.
- Serve with Romesco Sauce.
Versions of these fries show up in the cuisines of Nice (where they are called panisse), In Genoa (where they are called farinata), and in Sicily (where they are called panelle di ciciri).