Building a Better French Fry
Go beyond the falafel with chickpea fries and garlic mayo.
Photo by Leah Lizarondo
Ilove French fries. In fact, I love them so much that I have them for dessert sometimes. Yep, sometimes I will trade my dessert calorie allocation (not that I count them, but you know, I have some scruples) for a heap of good fries. Hands down, my favorite is double-fried Belgian style pommes frites with some garlic mayo. (Email me and I’ll tell you which one is my favorite in the ’Burgh!)
Then I discovered something that surprisingly equaled my FF fulfillment level. Chickpea Fries. Oh yes — fried chickpeas have gone beyond the falafel. Not that there’s anything wrong with a falafel! I love them, too. (As you can see, I have a lot of love to give.)
Crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, chickpea fries are actually an old tradition. If you’re watching the Food Network and Mario Batali is on, he will call them “Panelle.” And if you catch Jacques Pepin, he will call them “Panisse.” Whatever you call them, chickpea fries are an excellent European street food and here in the U.S., quite a novel addition to your menu.
But wait! It gets better. There’s a nutritional angle, too: While French fries are yummy, their value essentially stops at your taste buds. Chickpea fries, on the other hand, give you protein and fiber to go along with the yummy, so you won’t have to feel guilty if you put it on top of your salad for lunch (I’m talking to YOU, Pittsburgh). You should feel downright righteous if you have it for dessert. In fact, the French often serve a simple version of the batter sprinkled with sugar for the kids.
Take a deep breath, because there’s more. You don’t even have to deep fry them to get the same satisfying crunch as a French fry. I like to avoid deep frying except on rare occasions (I’m not a deep fry fascist, but it’s not healthy to do often). Instead, simply use a nonstick pan like your well-seasoned cast iron pan and use a little oil to cook them.
Chickpea fries are dangerously simple to make. Here are two variations, but once you make them, you’ll realize that it’s very easy to add your own flair. Another good thing about it? While they are great to eat straight out of the pan, they are also good at room temperature, unlike their potato brethren.
Chickpea Fries with Garlic Mayo
Yield: Enough for half sheet pan (13×18)
For this recipe, you will need chickpea or garbanzo flour. You can find this at Whole Foods, the East End Food Co-Op. Also, most Indian grocery stores carry it and label it besan.
3 cups chickpea flour
6 cups water (approximately — start with 5)
2 t salt
3 t pepper (I like mine peppery)
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil or coconut oil for frying
1/2 c. vegenaise
3 T lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic, pressed or very finely chopped
Dash salt and pepper
1. Simmer the water in a pot along with the salt, pepper and olive oil
2. Slowly add the chickpea flour, in a stream, whisking as you go to remove lumps. Be careful not to let it boil.
3. The batter will thicken quickly and once it is thicker than pancake batter, remove it from heat – if it becomes too dry, add more of the water and then whisk a little more to incorporate.
4. Spread onto oiled sheet pan. Cover with wax paper or plastic wrap. Click here for photo.
5. Chill for at least an hour or overnight. (I have left it at this stage for as long as three days and the fries were just as good!)
6. When firm, cut into desired shapes and fry.
7. Serve with garlic mayo.
Variation: Curried Chickpea Fries with Chili Mayo*
To the chickpea batter, add 2 Tbsp curry powder or 1 Tbsp Thai red curry paste
To the mayo, add 1-2 Tbsp chili sauce such as Sriracha
Leah Lizarondo Shannon is Chief Veghacker at The Brazen Kitchen where she blogs about food and food policy. She also holds wildly healthy cooking classes at Wild Red’s Farm in Stanton Heights. Her blog is at The Brazen Kitchen and you can follow her on Twitter @brazenkitchen.