When I travel, I like to try local specialties. It’s just part of the fun of eating and drinking in other countries. But learning about different foods and experiencing them is also a huge part of becoming a better cook.
I’ve had haggis in Scotland (a bit bland), banana beer in Rwanda (terrible), conch in the Cayman Islands (incredible.) Two foods I’ve refused to try were Casu Marzu in Corsica, a cheese covered in live maggots, and red-sauced, still-moving snails in Spain.
I’ll probably never eat fried spiders, grilled grasshoppers, and definitely not barbecued guinea pigs. (I did end up eating guinea pig ravioli years after I wrote this post!) So I guess I’m not the most adventurous when in comes to experiencing local food, but I do my best.
In the fall of 2015, my husband and I traveled to France, to begin a magical two-week road trip. Our guide was the incomparable Stéphane Gabart, from the blog My French Heaven. This was my third time visiting him. He knows and loves France, and he has great passion for French food and wine. He’s a professional chef, photographer, he’s really funny, and best of all, he’s my friend.
On this trip we traveled throughout Provence, stopping in quaint villages. Stéphane planned lunch in Castelnaudary, just so we could experience authentic cassoulet. And when we reached le Côte d’Azur, we enjoyed traditional bouillabaise in Cassis. In Avignon, I ordered pieds paquets, or veal toes, after treating myself to snails (the kind that are not alive).
Before leaving Nice to return home, I wanted to try a local specialty socca. I must have seen it in a cookbook, but had no idea what to expect. I expected socca to look more like cornbread, but it was more crêpe-like.
What makes socca different is that it’s made with garbanzo bean flour and not wheat flour.
The restaurant where we lunched in vieux Nice is at the left of the plaza.
At our final lunch together, I ordered socca with a Salade Niçoise and this is what it looked like.
Just for fun, I thought I should recreate socca at home. I am using a recipe from the blog Foodie Underground, written by Anna Brones.
Mine don’t look quite the same as what I had in Nice, but they were good!
Here’s what I did.
Makes 8 – 6″ in diameter
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup garbanzo bean/chick pea flour
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon salt
This is the garbanzo bean flour I used for the socca.
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well.
At this point, the batter is watery. Cover with a dish towel and put the bowl in the refrigerator for one hour minimum. The batter will thicken, but still be a “thin” batter.
Lightly oil a large round flat skillet. I used my Le Creuset crêpe pan that came with a little wooden tool. I’ve never used it for crêpes, just flatbreads!
Turn the heat to high. When the oil is smoking, gently pour a scant 1/3 cup of the batter onto the skillet, much as you would a crêpe.
The high heat really grabs the batter. You can see little holes forming around the edges.
Wait just until the middle of the socca has firmed up, then flip it over. To best assist with flipping the socca, I used a giant spatula that I usually only use for moving pastry. It’s really thin.
Flip over and cook for just about 30 seconds. This one got a little too browned on the first side.
While still warm, I folded the socca into quarters. My French socca were definitely more pliable than these.
To serve with the socca, I put together a green salad with some fun goodies.
The vinaigrette is a creamy lemon and parsley.
The socca were fantastic. I really loved the flavor of the Herbes de Provence.
Other recipes for socca list cumin or rosemary.
I’ve also seen recipes for socca that are thicker and cooked in the oven, served in wedges. I’m definitely going to experiment more because there is obviously more than one way to make socca. Plus, there are Ligurian recipes for the Italian version, called farinata, which makes sense since Liguria is so close to Nice.
Notice the lacy look of my socca.
The taste is really lovely, and there was no bitterness from the garbanzo bean flour. Their look is so-so, but I’d definitely make these unique pancakes again!
If you’re interested, check out highlights of our trip here Je Ne Regrette Rien.