How to Make Panisses [SLIDESHOW]

I wanted to title this post,  “Mes Panisses,” but the rules of SEO forced me to choose a much less cutesy title.

Panisses are French fries made from chickpea flour.  I first made them many years back for a Sukkot meal that included Provencal fish soup, and since then they are my go-to side dish for stewy things.  (I thought I came across the recipe in Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of Southwest France, but I just checked and it’s not there.)

Soon these things are going to get popular: chickpea flour is more nutritious than potatoes, and they are easier to make than French fries.  If you can cook oatmeal, you can make panisses.

Those of you planning a week of Sukkot menus—and I assume you all are—will want to add this to your list.

The basic idea is to make a porridge, like polenta, let it cool, cut it into sticks,  sauté or fry them.  It is small child cooking— think of mixing sand and water in the sandbox—except for the hot oil part, of course.

After you sauté them serve them.  If you want to make a batch and have them wait for you, keep them warm in a 250 degree oven for up to an hour.

For a pseudo-Middle Eastern variation, you can add chopped cilantro, chopped garlic, paprika and cumin to the batter to make falafel-like sticks, which you can serve with a tahini dipping sauce.  But I like them with salt and ground pepper.

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(Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman)

Makes about 40, more or less

Whole Foods sells excellent quality chickpea flour.  You can also find it at Middle Eastern stores and specialty gourmet stores, like Surfas.  Don’t pay more than three bucks a pound for it—you’ll ruin it for the rest of us.

1 quart water

2 teaspoons olive oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cups chickpea flour

salt and pepper

1. Lightly oil a 9-inch square cake pan or casserole.  A round pan works, too.  In France I’ve seen them cool the stuff on a slab, even.

2. Heat the water with the oil and salt in a saucepan. Once hot, but not boiling, whisk in the chickpea flour. If there are some small lumps, don’t worry.  This is a very forgiving process.

3. Whisk over medium heat until the mixture thickens, about three minutes.

4. Switch to a wooden spoon, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes until very thick and the batter is very thick. 

5. Scrape into the oiled pan and let cool. You can let sit on a counter until stiff, or refrigerate for a couple days, covered.

6. To fry the panisses, unmold on a cutting board and slice into French fry-sized sticks.  Again, this is your call.  Thinner seems to be more popular.

7. In a heavy-duty skillet—I use cast iron— heat 1/4-1/2 inch of olive oil. When hot, fry the panisses in batches, not crowding them in the pan. Once the bottom is nicely browned and crisp, turn with tongs, frying the panisses until they are deep-golden brown on each side.

8. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels, sprinkling them very generously with salt and pepper. 

Falafel Sticks

To the above recipe, add 1 t. ground cumin, ½ t. hot paprika, ½ cup chopped cilantro, 2 cloves minced garlic when you add the flour.  Proceed with the recipe, serve with tahini thinned with water and lemon juice.