Full disclosure: panisses are French in origin, but they’re also an appetizer…so they could also be a tapa. We’re going to go with that since it’s Tapas Tuesday. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised to find something very similar is made in Spain.
We’ve been cooking with besan (chickpea) flour all summer. It’s great as a substitute for all purpose flour when used as breading or as a binder instead of egg. Besan flour also shines in its own right in besan pudas. I was very pleased to come across panisses when browsing through a Mediterranean cookbook at the bookstore. (I don’t remember the name or I’d give you a link, sorry). The panisses in the book were shaped like chips, but in my search of the internet I came across references to baton and disk shapes. David Leibovitz formed his into batons and shallow fried them. I liked the idea of the chips and set out to make them.
When you mix the besan flour with hot water and olive oil, you end up with a very thick batter which sets up into a gelatinous mass that can be cut and fried. It reminded me of how polenta or grits will turn into a big glob if left in the pan too long.
I spread the first batch onto waxed paper. That turned into a disaster as the two stuck together. I fed them to the trash. After reading how David Leibovitz used a baking pan to set up his panisses, I used a rimmed baking sheet to set the second batch. When you make yours, be sure to generously oil the pan before pouring in the batter. It will come out much easier.
These were delicious while still warm. The outside was crunchy and the inside was still a little creamy and tasted like chickpeas. They weren’t as nice after they cooled down but easily re-heated and crisped in the oven. The biggest drawback is the amount of time needed to make a batch of what is essentially a chip. That being said, I’ll make them again, probably in a half batch. It takes less than 15 minutes to make the batter and I can stick the pan in the fridge while waiting for it to firm up. Since I made chips, I deep fried them in small batches in my smallest pan (to minimize the amount of oil). I’m going to give pan frying a try next time. Or maybe I’ll form a round crust and bake in a hot oven like we had in Pisa, Italy. They called it cecina and served it with a drizzle of olive oil and cracked black pepper.
- 3/4 cup besan flour
- 3 cups water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper (or to taste)
- oil for frying (I used a blend of olive and sunflower oils)
- parmesan cheese and chopped parsley for garnish
- Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
- Stir in the olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the besan flour gradually
- Whisk continuously to smooth out any lumps and continue to whisk until the batter thickens up.
- Switch to a spoon and stir for three or four minutes more. You’ll see the batter start to pull away from the sides of the pan as you stir.
- Generously oil a baking sheet and spread the batter as thinly as possible. Don’t worry if you can’t get it to cover the entire pan.
- Set aside until it’s set. It gets quite rubbery looking. Don’t worry, it will work out great!
- When ready to cook, turn the panisses onto the counter and use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut them into chip shapes. I went for elongated diamonds.
- Add an inch of oil in a small saucepan and heat. The oil is hot enough when a scrap piece of panisse sinks to the bottom and slowly rises back up to the top.
- Fry in batches using a strainer to keep the panisses separate and to remove them after they’ve turned a nice golden brown color (about 2 minutes).
- Drain on paper towels, making sure to salt each batch as it comes out of the oil.
- To serve, arrange on a plate and garnish with parmesan cheese and parsley.
Have you had or made panisses before? This was my first time, and I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.