Socca à Nice: how to eat and run on the Côte d’Azur

(If you are reading this post on a RSS reader, you might want to click through to Chez Pim for the slideshow.)

Have you tried Socca? If you’ve been to the South of France, especially in Nice, you must have at least seen it. Socca is ubiquitous ‘street’ food in those parts. Made primarily with chickpea flour and olive oil –ingredients plentiful around the Mediterranean- Socca is a quick, cheap, and delightful snack common not only on the French part of the coast but all the way into Liguria in Italy, where it goes by the name Farinata.

Finding a good Socca in Nice is a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘where’ –that is to say there is not a huge variance in quality between all the Socca places in town. It’s just a couple ingredients for goodness sake. The key is to get it as it comes right out of the oven. If you happen upon a Socca joint that’s just pulled one of those giant round pan out of their brick oven, be sure to get a portion and enjoy. That place, ladies and gentleman, is quite possibly the best Socca joint in town at that very moment.

The ‘correct’ Socca –as this is France there is a ‘correct’ way and ‘incorrect’ way to do everything- is not wafer thin or crispy like chips. It should be more like a thin pancake that is crisp at the edges, with burnt blisters in places.

I found a recipe that makes Socca that most closely resemble the ones I’ve had in Nice. And just like Proust’s Madeleine, a bite of this Socca transports me right back to the crowded streets of Old Nice. Ok, I was just there not too many days ago, so it’s not like the transport had far to go, but quand même!

Recipe adapted from this one.
250 g. Chickpea (Garbanzo) flour
3 cups of water (cold)
1/2 cup +1 tbsp olive oil for the batter, and more to grease the pan
2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
one thick and flat bottom pan about 12′ in diameter.

1. Set an oven rack on the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500F, or the highest your oven can go. Move the top rack to the top third of the oven.
2. Stir the chickpea flour and salt together until well-mixed.
3. Add water to the dry ingredient and mix well with a whip.
4. Slowly add the olive oil, mixing vigorously so that the batter is not lumpy.
5. The consistency of the batter should be closer to whole milk than heavy cream. It must be thinner than regular crepe batter, and significantly thinner than pancake batter. Whisk
in more water if the batter is too thick. Set aside.
6. Rub the entire surface of the pan well with a bit of olive oil and put the pan in the oven for 5 minutes.
7. Turn the oven on Broil. Take the pan out of the oven, pour 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in the pan and pour about 1/2 cup of the Socca batter on to the hot pan, taking care to spread it evenly. The batter should spread in a very thin layer over the pan.
8. Put the pan under the broiler for 3-5 minutes.
Watch the Socca carefully. It should turn brown and blister in places
but should not be too burnt.
9. Put the pan back in the oven to reheat for a minute before cooking the next batch.
10. Serve the Socca immediately, with a liberal dusting of freshly ground pepper and more salt to taste.
11. Repeat the process from #6 until the batter is finished.

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14 Responses to “Socca à Nice: how to eat and run on the Côte d’Azur

  • Hande said:
    April 17th, 2007 at 10:52pm

    This is exactly the way we (and everyone else) made it in Liguria, with only one exception: We try to let the dough sit for up to 4 hours. I don’t know what difference it makes. Does it leaven, may be? Oh, I am yearning for some right now, gotta go!

  • Labyrinthe said:
    April 17th, 2007 at 11:43pm

    I live in Nice and I can tell you that some places make really disgusting socca with really too much oil :s
    In fact I usually buy my socca in the exact place where you took your pictures.
    Could you tell me where you took the third picture because I’m looking for a “plaque à socca”. Thanks a lot 🙂

  • Annapurna said:
    April 18th, 2007 at 1:24am

    Oh, Pim! When I first stumbled upon your blog over a year ago, I was enchanted because a) you share my passion–nay, obsession–with food and express it perfectly, and b) you are an omnivore (highly respectable in this world of picky eaters). But now you have hit a new high: Socca! Merely reading the word makes my “papilles” drunk and dizzy with anticipation. I think I need to buy a train ticket south…but to tide me over, I will try your recipe. Bless you for making my Parisian morning just that much sunnier.

  • Silly Disciple said:
    April 18th, 2007 at 7:12am

    The Farinata, which is known locally as “Fainá” is widely consumed in Argentina, and eaten on top of the pizza.

  • faustianbargain said:
    April 18th, 2007 at 7:52am

    ahh..yes. i remember socca. i am loving the picture of the oven..:)…say, is that socca pan made of copper? any idea how much that would cost?
    chickpea flour is what we call ‘besan’ in india. i think.
    if it is, something similar from india is khandvi. slight differences…the batter is made with buttermilk and cooked stovetop. spread thin like a med thick crepe, it is left to cool down and then cut into thick pappardelle…and we have the usual seasoning on top(oil, mustard, cumin, chillies, cilantro etc)

  • Jon F. said:
    April 18th, 2007 at 11:02am

    I ate something like this in Morocco. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was the same thing. Delicious with jam or nutella.

  • Carolina said:
    April 18th, 2007 at 1:07pm

    This sounds delious and simple, I’ll have to make this for my family. I think they have some thing like this in the caribbean called roti and they use it like a tortilla. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ester said:
    April 19th, 2007 at 1:35am

    I love socca, better than panisses (the Marseille version of this chickpeas pancakes), the panisses are fried, maybe you have already taste it ? You also have the great panelle, the Palerme street-food. In fact, the chickpeas pancakes are all around the Mediterranee…

  • Blame It on Paris said:
    April 22nd, 2007 at 7:43am

    You’re making me look forward to May in Provence even more!

  • Pim said:
    April 23rd, 2007 at 9:27am

    Hande, next time I make this I’ll try letting the dough rest and see how it does. Thanks for the tip.
    Labyrinth, I wish I could tell you but that shot was from randomly wandering the old part of town. Sorry.
    Annapurna, Thanks. The recipe is really simple, and cheaper than a train ticket to Nice for sure.
    Silly D, I’ve heard of that, but never tried it.
    Miss Faust, Besan is black chickpea, I think. It’s slightly different from the yellow or white European chickpeas. But I can’t imagine it making much of a difference. Thanks for the link.
    Jon, Nutella, now that’s an idea!
    Carolina, roti is an indian word meaning bread, I think. There are so many kinds of roti, I’m not surprised there’s one similar to Socca.
    Ester, anything fried can’t be that bad. 😉
    May in Provence, how lovely!

  • miss tango said:
    April 28th, 2007 at 5:34pm

    Silly Disciple beat me to saying Fainá is eaten here in Argentina with pizza. Although I haven´t yet found one I liked. It is thicker here and not so crispy. The French version looks tastier!

  • zafia said:
    September 1st, 2008 at 9:07am

    roti is the Hindi word for flat breads cooked on a really flat pan.
    Hmm.. this looks good. I want to try it!

  • Lisa said:
    October 5th, 2008 at 10:21pm

    I wonder if these would freeze well ? Has anyone tried ?

  • Martina said:
    October 21st, 2008 at 5:23am

    Chiming in more than a year later to say that this food is also made in the Pisa-Livorno area of Tuscany, with the name cecina!
    And of course, Pim, thank you for your lovely blog. I just discovered it and it’s so interesting to read.

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