Socca

Socca 044This summer I was fortunate enough to visit the French Riviera on vacation. I spent most of my time in Nice, and the highlight of my trip was “A Taste of Nice” — a four-hour walking food tour of all the Niçoise specialties. I can’t even begin to remember all the interesting foods I sampled or all the off-the-beaten-track locations we visited, but I highly, highly recommend the tour if you ever find yourself in Nice.

Any travel guide will tell you that while in Nice, you must try socca. Socca, a true specialty of Nice, is a street food that might best be described as a crepe made with chickpea flour.

20140814_115545Our food tour took us to Socca Tram, a tiny little walk-up snack bar where customers order outside at a counter that looks right into the tiny kitchen, and eat outside at long, wooden tables under little green umbrellas.

This family-owned business is reputed as having the best socca in town, and it’s where the locals go for socca. (I’d even bet that the only tourists to make it there—as it’s several tram stops away from the more popular areas—are those on the food tour!)

Socca is a finger food, traditionally eaten hot as a snack, and is served with a big, metal shaker of finely ground pepper: the more pepper you put on it, the better. Another great accompaniment is a small jug of chilled wine of the region: white, rosé or red. (And if you’ve just been to the cheese shop, you might add some fresh, locally-made goat cheese to your plate.)

20140814_115758True socca is made in a giant copper pan, about 2 feet in diameter, and baked in a very, very hot wood-fired oven.

20140814_122805 To make socca back here at home I had to find a recipe tailored for a home kitchen, and this one turned out to taste very authentic.

Socca
Recipe adapted from Rosa Jackson: Edible Adventures.

1¼ C chickpea/garbanzo bean flour (125 g)
1¼ C cold water (250 mL)
1 T high-quality extra virgin olive oil (15 mL)
¼ t smoked paprika (Spanish sweet pimentón)
½ t salt
¼ t black pepper
1 sprig (3-4” long) fresh rosemary
2 T olive oil, divided, for the pan
Freshly ground pepper
8” cast iron skillet

Whisk together the water and chickpea flour, then add the extra virgin olive oil, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and rosemary sprig. Mix well until the batter is smooth and has the consistency of heavy cream. Let the batter sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours or, even better, overnight. Remove the rosemary sprig from the batter just before cooking.

Place a cast iron skillet on an upper middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 550 degrees F (or as high as your oven gets). Once it reaches temperature, wait about 20 minutes, to make sure the pan is very hot. Carefully remove the hot pan and pour 1 T olive oil into the pan; swirl pan to evenly coat. Place the oiled pan back in the oven to heat for 5 minutes.

Carefully remove the hot pan and pour half of the socca batter into the pan; swirl pan to evenly coat. Place the pan back in the oven to bake. After 5 minutes, turn the oven’s broiler to high. Broil the socca, turning the pan a couple times to evenly brown it, until it’s well browned, blistering and even burning a little in spots. Note: you may need to leave the oven door ajar while broiling to prevent the heating element in broiler to turn off.

Carefully remove the pan and remove the socca with tongs. Cut or tear the socca into smaller pieces and serve hot, with plenty of freshly ground pepper.

To make the second batch, place the pan back in the oven and turn it back to the prior temperature (550 degrees F, or the highest setting). The pan can be removed for the oil and batter once the oven has reached temperature.

Yield: 2 8″ round pieces

 

Step by Step Details

Smoked paprika and chickpea/garbanzo bean flour can usually be found in health food stores, upscale supermarkets or co-ops. I added the smoked paprika to this recipe to give it a bit of a smoked flavor since I don’t have a wood-fired oven at home. Yet. Maybe I should start a Kickstarter campaign to get one…

Socca 050

Whisk together the water and chickpea flour, then add the extra virgin olive oil, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and rosemary sprig. Mix well until the batter is smooth and has the consistency of heavy cream.

Socca 019

Let the batter sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours or, even better, overnight. Remove the rosemary sprig from the batter just before cooking.

To bake, place a cast iron skillet on an upper middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 550 degrees F (or as high as your oven gets). Once it reaches temperature, wait about 20 minutes to make sure the pan is very hot. Carefully remove the hot pan and pour 1 T olive oil into the pan; swirl pan to evenly coat. Place the oiled pan back in the oven to heat for 5 minutes. Or don’t, if you forget this step like I did the first few times I made it. It should still turn out just fine.

Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and, after removing the rosemary sprig, pour about half of the socca batter into the pan.

Socca 026

Swirl the pan around to evenly coat.

Socca 037

Place the pan back in the oven. The batter will start to bubble and brown around the sides as it cooks.

Socca 028

After 5 minutes, turn the oven’s broiler on to high. Broil the socca, turning the pan a couple times to evenly brown it, until it’s well browned, blistering and even burning a little in spots.

Socca 030Note: you may need to leave the oven door slightly ajar while broiling to prevent the heating element in broiler to turn off, like mine kept doing.

Carefully remove the pan and remove the socca with tongs. If it sticks to the pan, scrape it out with a spatula. You’re going to break it up to serve it anyway, so it doesn’t matter what it looks like coming out. I got lucky with this one, but the next one stuck and broke apart a bit. And no, you don’t get to see the photo of that, but here’s a great way to clean the cast iron pan.

Socca 032To make the next batch, place the pan back in the oven (scrape out any burnt-on bits first) and turn the temperature back to 550 degrees F/ highest setting. The pan can be removed for the oil and batter once the oven has reached that temperature.

Cut or tear the socca into smaller pieces and serve hot, with plenty of freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

Socca 046

 

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