THE WASHINGTON POST – Many times, when I write about a recipe that employs frying, I feel almost apologetic. I’m sorry you have to use a lot of oil. I’m sorry that makes the recipe seem not so healthy. I’m sorry it takes longer to clean up. I’m sorry it’s intimidating! Perhaps most importantly these days: I’m sorry I don’t have an air fryer and didn’t test this in one.
The truth is, I still consider true frying – with proper technique, including tricks to minimise the absorption of oil, along with the mess – a foundational method that can result in simply delicious, even nutritious, food.
Take these chickpea fries. Made with chickpea flour and based on the panisses of southern France, they come together similarly to polenta fries: you cook up the porridge-like batter, chill it until firm, cut it into sticks, then fry.
The keys are to use just one cup of oil in a Dutch oven, whose high sides prevent splattering, and to heat the oil to 350 degrees before you fry. The chickpea batons get crispy on the outside and stay custardy inside, and when you drain them well, the whole batch absorbs a mere two tablespoons of the oil. That puts them at only one gramme saturated fat per serving – including the mayo dipping sauce.
Besides that sauce, which consists of mayonnaise whisked with preserved lemon, I love cookbook author Emma Zimmerman’s touch of sprinkles of chopped parsley (along with salt) on the hot fries.
Could you make these in an air fryer? I’m sure you could – there’s no way you’ll get the same kind of crust, but if it makes these more likely to show up in your kitchen, go for it.
In the meantime, I’ll be over here frying, draining, dipping and crunching and munching – and this time, not apologising.
CHICKPEA FRIES WITH PRESERVED LEMON MAYO
These delightful fries are called panisses in the south of France, but their crispy exterior and custardy interior belong on your table no matter where you live. They come together like polenta fries: You cook a chickpea-flour-based porridge on the stovetop, let it cool until it firms up, then cut it into rectangles and pan-fry. These are a delicious appetiser, especially when dipped in the accompanying preserved lemon mayo, but they can also make a nice main course with a salad and bread.
Two teaspoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the parchment
Four cups water
Two cups chickpea flour
One teaspoon fine salt
One teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Half cup vegan mayonnaise
Two tablespoons preserved lemon paste
One cup safflower, sunflower or other neutral oil good for high-heat frying
One cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
One and half teaspoons flaky sea salt
Cut two pieces of parchment paper to fit a nine-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet or casserole dish. Use a little olive oil to lightly grease one side of each piece of parchment.
Place one parchment piece on the bottom of the baking sheet (oil side up) and reserve the other.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the two teaspoons of olive oil and water. Just before it starts to boil, slowly sprinkle in the chickpea flour while whisking to remove many (if not all) of the clumps and form a smooth batter. Whisk in the salt and pepper and reduce the heat to low. Switch to a wooden spoon and cook, stirring constantly, until the batter stiffens and starts to pull away from the sides and/or bottom of the pan, 10 minutes.
Scoop the batter onto the greased parchment in the pan and spread it out evenly as quickly as you can (it will start to firm up as it cools).
Place the second piece of paper, greased side down, on the batter and gently press to smooth it out evenly. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, until it has cooled and set.
While the batter is cooling, in a small bowl, mix together the mayo and lemon.
When the batter has set, remove the top paper and use a butter knife to cut the chickpea block into 24 sticks, each one about four inches by one inch.
Set a cooling rack over a large, rimmed baking sheet next to the stove.
In a Dutch oven or other deep pot, heat the safflower oil until it reaches 350 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (Or you can check by carefully dipping one end of a chickpea stick into the oil; if it sizzles, it’s ready). Working in batches to avoid overcrowding, gently add the chickpea sticks to the oil and cook, turning with tongs when needed, until golden on both sides, about three to five minutes per side.
Using the tongs, transfer to the rack to drain. While hot, sprinkle on one side with the parsley and flaky salt.
Serve hot with the preserved lemon mayo for dipping.