In Nice, ‘socca’ is a large crêpe-like dish, made from chickpea flour, cooked in a huge iron pan in a wood burning oven or in a backers oven.
The recipe for socca is fairly simple: 250 g of chickpea flour mixed with 1/2 l (0,5 l) of water, 6 soup spoons of olive oil, 1 tea spoon table salt. Once mixed leave the mixture to rest for two hours. Preheat the oven at 250 °. Put the iron pan/plate in the oven to heat it. It should be very,very hot before you put the mixture in it! Then leave the mixture to back for 10-15 minutes. Take it out of the oven and cut it into pieces and sprinkle ground pepper and salt on it.
Although some people believe the Turks brought the socca tradition to Nice, when they besieged the town, socca was actually brought to Nice from Liguria. However, Nice isn’t the only town in France that serves socca. In fact, socca is also a speciality in Toulon, where it is called ‘cade’. Socca probably made its way to Nice in the 19th century with the arrival of Piedmontese and Genovese emigrants and made its way to Toulon with the Genovese carpenters that were brought back to France by the Napoleon army.
I remember one of my cousins in Savona (Italy), who had a farinata, where she served a dish called farinata de ceci (like socca made of chickpea flour) but also grana (made of wheatflour). While, in Nice the pancake-like dish is served with nothing in it, in Savona small sausages or ham are added to the pastry mixture before it is backed.
In Nice this dish was originally eaten by the working-class and fishermen as a snack and generally sold at little mobile stands or trolleys. Nowadays you can find socca in traditional and specialised restaurants such as Pipo, or in the old town as well as in the rest of the town. Some even plan to make it a success in the US (Cf Nice-Matin).
Many restaurants have started serving this dish now. Notably Atelier in Nice, which has in a way reinvented socca by baking and serving it with smoked salmon and lime, buffalo mozzarella and parmesan or with artichoke or even with carpaccio, and pata negra.
You can only really claim to know Nice if you’ve eaten socca there on at least one occasion. If you come to learn French at AzurLingua, Yann will be happy to name some of the main addresses for the best socca in town.