Chickpea flour works its magic in this pancake
In New York, street food is pretzels and various meats served in buns or on sticks. Travel to the South of France, however, and you’ll find street vendors in Nice cooking paper-thin socca, a pancake made with a chickpea flour batter. Chickpea flour’s strong texture and earthy flavor give socca (known as farinata when served in the Liguria region of Italy) a complex flavor profile, even though the pancake batter is typically no more than flour, water, and olive oil.
Jess Shadbolt, one of the chefs at King in New York City, told me in an email that streetside socca are traditionally made in a copper pan and heated over fire. When made in a home kitchen, however, live flame isn’t required. Socca batter turns into a thin and crispy pancake when poured into a preheated cast iron pan and baked at a high temperature until just slightly blistered.
“Socca needs to be served piping hot—straight from the oven—so you enjoy the full benefit of the crispy bits!” Shadbolt said. Shadbolt, who runs the kitchen at King along with Clare de Boer, explained that while socca is traditionally served plain with a bit of sea salt, the pancake is especially wonderful when topped with herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme, or Fennel fronds and seeds. “[It] also works well with either thin slices of artichokes or radicchio leaves folded through the batter.” Shadbolt recommends starting a meal with a warm socca and a crisp, dry rosé, as she does at King.
Though Shadbolt and de Boer change the menu daily at King, one of the team’s staples is another chickpea flour-based snack, panisse. Like a socca, panisse stars out as a batter of chickpea flour, water, and olive oil, and cooked like a pancake. Instead of serving as is, a cooked panisse is then cut into shards and deep-fried. At King, panisse are served with fried sage leaves and flaky sea salt, which Shadbolt characterized at the perfect start to a long and lazy meal.