Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Thyme Panisse with Green Peppercorn Yogurt Sauce

Chickpeas are an appreciated ingredientespecially as a flourin Provencal cuisine. My own appreciation started during my New York City childhood. While my peers peeked in the cookie jar, I cruised the pantry for tinned chickpeas which I often would gobble straight from the can. Savoury candy, as it were. Their warm colour, robust creaminess, and endearing form resembling partially popped corn captivated me.

Panisse, if you are wondering, are deep-fried chickpea sticks

The night before, I cook the chickpea flour in the stock, pour this batter into a pan, and leave it overnight in the fridge. At this time, I also mix up the sauce as its flavour mellows while it shares fridge space with the panisse. However just an hour is enough cold-time to allow the slicing of batons and to smooth out the sauce.

makes about thirty-five 7.5 cm/3 inch fries, about 1.25 cm/.5 inch thick
  • Chickpea flour, 115 grams/8 fluid oz
  • Chicken stock, unsalted (veggie stock or water could be substituted), 475 ml/16 fluid oz
  • Thyme, dried, 1/2 tsp
  • Salt, 1 tsp
  • If using veggie stock or water, olive oil, 1 T
  • Vegetable oil for frying, enough for a 5 cm/2 inch high level in a medium-large sauce pan (I used about a liter/quart of sunflower, 1/4 of which was reused oil which helps in crisping the fries)

Dipping Sauce
can be doubled if so desired
  • Yogurt, plain, 120 ml/4 fluid oz
  • Tomato paste, 1 T
  • Green peppercorns, freshly crushed, 1/8 to 1/4 tsp
  • Sherry vinegar, a drop or two

Put the stock, thyme, and salt in a medium saucepan. Gradually stir in the chickpea flour. It most likely will be a bit lumpy. Turn on the heat to medium-low and while it cooks, whisk frequently. Whisk and simmer for about five minutes or until it is very thick, smooth, and has no raw taste.

Remove from heat and promptly pour into a well oiled, 20 cm/8 inch square casserole/baking pan. Working fast, as it congeals quickly, level the surface with the back of a metal tablespoon. Cover with plastic wrap, foil, or a lid. Put in fridge.

Green peppercorns after being crushed gradually become less piquant. So if piquant is your thing then crush them (with the back of a metal spoon) and add them to the sauce close to serving time.

If not, blend them into the yogurt and tomato paste. Add a drop or so of sherry vinegar. Salt to taste. Put in fridge.

The next day, flip the solid panisse out of the pan onto a cutting board.

Those creases in the corners were caused by sluggish leveling

Cut into sticks. Any wrinkled area will be harder from which to get nice clean slices. Don't worry as those odds and ends will still taste great. You may have to fish them out of the hot oil sooner than the others.

Heat the oil over medium flame. To test for adequate temperature, insert the handle of a wooden spoon. If hot enough, the oil will release a steady stream of small bubbles from the end of the handle. I used a metal skimmer for both putting them in the pot and for taking them out. A metal sieve with a handle would work also. If you have a deep fryer, then you are sitting pretty. Don't crowd the little ones and fry them in several batches. They will float up to the top fairly soon. If not, then a gentle nudge with the skimmer may be in order.

Let them cook for about five minutes until crisp and brown. Blot with paper towels.

The dipping sauce complements not only the taste of the fries, but also its nutrition, upping its protein boost. Crunchiness and molten lusciousness are at their most delectable when the panisse are served hot. However, they are still tasty and fun to eat when tepid or cold. Since frying, if done properly, is closer to steaming, don't shy away from embracing your inner sizzler from time to time.

Dirac the Kitten has taken lately to communing with a fleece lap throw that has the same degree of softness and shade of colour as he has. If it is draped over my shoulders while I sit at the computer, Dirac will squirm up between it and my back making me look as if I have a mobile hump. If its fate is to be on the floor, after a brief and albeit gentle tussel, he becomes enveloped in its folds. If it is innocently crumpled on a chair, we first need to make sure there is not a Dirac within before sitting down.

The other day, I removed the fleecy/furry unit from my back, almost dislocating my shoulders in completing this most delicate task. Once this wriggling grey mass was placed gingerly on my desk, the in situ bliss continued.

À la prochaine!


Making chicken stock
Eating chickpea socca ('pancakes') in the south of France
Green peppercorn veggie flan
Sweet red pepper/green bean pakora (chickpea flour fritters)
Making vegetable stock