When I first published a recipe for socca nearly fifteen years ago, most people outside of Nice had never heard of it. But it was a secret too good to keep quiet, and I felt compelled to spread the word. (I wasn’t the first to share it, though. La Cuisinière Provençale by Jean-Baptiste Reboul, which was published in 1897, called the snack vulgaire, no doubt due to its provenance as “street food.”)
Part of socca’s newfound popularity is due to the fact that it’s naturally gluten-free; it’s made with chickpea flour, readily available in natural food stores and online. You want to use finely milled chickpea flour; some stores sell a coarsely ground version, which gives socca a rougher texture that I don’t prefer.
Socca is always sprinkled with flaky sea salt and lots of black pepper, and it demands to be paired with the Grapefruit Rosé cocktail or glasses of rosé with plenty of ice, another specialty of the South of France, where it’s called a piscine de rosé—a “swimming pool” of wine.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour, salt, cumin, water, and olive oil until smooth. Cover and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature. (The batter can rest for up to 6 hours at room temperature if you want to make it in advance.)
- When ready to make the socca, adjust the rack to the top third of the oven, place a 10-inch (25cm) cast-iron skillet on it, and preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
- Remove the skillet from the oven (remember to stay aware of how hot the pan is, especially the handle) and carefully brush the bottom and sides with olive oil. Pour in the socca batter and, using an oven mitt to hold the handle, tilt the pan to spread the batter around so it’s even. Bake the socca until it feels almost set, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn on the broiler.
- Brush a little olive oil over the top of the socca. Place it back in the oven and broil until the top turns brown in patches, which will take 1 to 4 minutes, depending on your broiler. Watch it carefully. Remove the pan from the oven, run a spatula under the socca to release it from the pan, and slide it onto a cutting board. Brush with additional olive oil, slice the socca into wedges, and serve with a liberal sprinkling of flaky sea salt and black pepper.
Reprinted with permission from Drinking French: The Iconic Cocktails, Aperitifs, and Café Traditions of France, with 160 recipes by David Lebovitz © 2020. Photographs © 2020 by Ed Anderson. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.