I wrote in this week’s column that to me, Nice is France’s Venice, and if you’ve been to either, you’ll be able to imagine the food position of the other. A lonely traveler, upon entering either city, you immediately notice difference. In Venice, it’s the canals, and the arched-cat-back bridges. In Nice, it’s the feel of walking off the beach and into a fortress, with medievally serpentine streets and the feeling of grey stone against the blue, blue sky. And then there’s the food. In Venice, it’s a handful of things you rarely see again miles from the canals: cuttlefish, squid ink, chilies, saffron. And in Nice, the heart of the Riviera, in that city fortress is a bastion of dishes you won’t find outside the castle walls: socca, chickpea flour pancakes, zucchini flower beignets, pissaladière, legumes farcies. My time in Nice was one of the fullest times of my life, because I stopped nearly everywhere for something I absolutely HAD to try.
For the Oscars on Sunday, I am making these Niçoise Chickpea Chips (see my column French in a Flash at Serious Eats for the full recipe and article, as always). They are easier to make than homemade potato chips, but more unique. Think of them as haute couture snacks on your red carpet table. Except, all that is involved is gently crisping canned chickpeas in hot olive oil, and then tossing them with lemon zest and fleur de sel. To me, though they are certainly not traditionally Niçoise, they evoke all the flavors of the city: the chickpeas, the salty sea air, the deep fry that seems to come on everything, the lemon husks left over from drizzling beignets. Nice memories of Nice. Bon app!
- Olive oil for frying
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and very well dried
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel
- Zest 1/2 lemon
- Fill a small saucepot half full with olive oil, and heat over medium heat until it reaches 350°F. Drop the garlic clove into the oil when it is cold, and remove it as it comes to temperature—just to infuse the flavor into the oil.
- Fry the chickpeas in batches for about 5 minutes, carefully, as they may splatter. They will go from looking like cooked chickpeas to toasted hazelnuts—smaller, and golden, and crunchy. Drain on a paper towel, and toss with the fleur de sel and lemon zest.