I am unclear how it made it almost 39 years without having a panisse. They are a French french fry. Our first encounter with them occurred earlier last summer. ‘What is it?‘ I asked Jim taking my second bite. ‘I don’t know, what do you think?‘ ‘No clue. But it’s delicious.’ ‘Mmmhmm.’ So, we asked the waiter. Chick pea fries. Had we simply read the menu or paid attention perhaps we would have known. However, it was a revelation. Chickpea fries. A little research told me these were indigenous to Southern France and as common as waffles at The Waffle House. How had we managed to live our lives without these?
The restaurant that gave us these gems is the second for a local chef to whom we are devoted. We were devoted to his first restaurant and thrilled to hear about a second. I am not sure he knows about our devotion but I suspect, now, between these fries, the pork belly BLT with lardo mayo, the crab roll, some very special clams, seriously awesome oysters and a fried chicken that rivals Thomas Keller and the Colonel. He is starting to catch on because we show up at least once a week, sometimes twice for lunch. Lunchtime is quiet and we stick out. Well, Jim sticks out. If you have never met my one and only he’s the 6’5” bald guy in the Buddy Holly by way of Brooklyn glasses. Jim, by sheer cubic space, cannot be ignored, and I’m the much shorter person with him. Dinner is busy with curious food trendsters and hungry neighbors, lunch has not been discovered. While I appreciate having a cool secret, I don’t want the rest of this town to screw up my good thing, so here’s hoping more people show up for lunch and Jim and I melt into the background.
The chef is turning out food with a nod, a French nod, or a New England nod, or a Spanish nod, or a Florida nod or whatever he feels like nodding. It’s just good food. And nary a pimento cheese dip, deviled egg or red velvet anything on the menu. The fries had to be ours though. They are made much like polenta. Chickpea flour, plus water, heated and mixed together, placed in a pan to cool then sliced in to rectangles and fried in olive oil. That’s it or so said Mark Bittman and David Leibovitz. However, these tasted better than that ingredient list. It’s not that easy in fact it has taken me a year to get this one right.
This is what I have come up with that gets close. If you happen to live in Atlanta go to One Eared Stag in Inman Park for lunch and try Chef Phalen’s version. Or try something more adventurous because there is a lot of fun stuff happening on that menu. If you don’t live in Atlanta, well, then you have an excuse to try mine.
Panisses - Serves 4
1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup veggie stock
1 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Olive oil for frying
Put the stock and/or water and the teaspoon of olive oil in a pot and heat until shimmering, not boiling, whisk in the chickpea flour and the salt. Continue to whisk or stir while it cooks for about 5 minutes. Add in the parsley and pour in to a greased small rectangular dish, mine is 5"x7". Cool to room temperature and move to the fridge for at least 6 hours. I usually do this step the day before I want to serve them.
Turn the molded dough out on to a paper towel and blot any condensation. The top layer will be lumpy, slice it off and slice the remainder in to fries. Heat about a 1/2” of oil in a wide pan. Fry the fries for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Sprinkle with sea salt.