Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Pam's Potato Chops

What might they be you ask?  For those of you who do not have a link to Goan cuisine, these are typically parcels of mashed potatoes stuffed with spicy ground beef. And Pam, my mother in law, is the queen of potato chops. Every visit to our house is heralded by an inordinately large amount of chops, each lovingly made by hand and eaten with the obligatory squirt of tomato ketchup. Goans have a penchant for one wet and one dry dish at dinner. Meat curry being the former and potato chops would be the dry dish!

She eyeballs potatoes, pokes them periodically while they simmer over the fire, instructs me on how to mash them..."Use a ricer so you won't have lumps" ...her voice echoes in my ear. Honestly, this is the best piece of advice, as a ricer turns potatoes into one creamy mash. Onions have to be chopped into very small dice and slowly browned. Goan red masala, a staple she brings by the kilo, is sauteed with precision strokes till the kitchen is enveloped in a sharp spicy aroma. Ground beef has to stirred constantly till it breaks down completely. "No lumpy pieces of meat should be visible." She accurately portions out cooked beef with a spoon. We form the same quantity of potato balls. Strangely, every time we make potato chops, she comes up with the right proportion of potato to beef just by eyeballing it. Miracles will never cease!!!

Each potato portion is gently massaged into a smooth ball. She shows me how to cradle the ball, using my thumb and forefinger to hollow out the center. A large tablespoon of cooked beef goes into the hollow. The ball is then pulled together to close the opening. She makes sure there are no cracks and then flattens the patty. 

The next part requires an assembly line. Chops go into an egg wash and then coated with breadcrumbs. "Only use one hand so the other is free to spoon crumbs or pick up plain and breaded chops." And that's just what we do. Pam uses the flat side of a chef's knife to get a clean flat potato chop. I prefer my fingers for that task. The mound grows as I get ready to fry them golden brown. "They have to be deep fried"...I'm told that is the best way. So I do. And I agree completely, because I have tried shallow frying them, with disappointing results. You will not get that crusty exterior if you shallow fry. Making potato chops is a time consuming affair. You might as well do it the right way!!! Deep fry and eat the love!

Makes 12 big patties

1/2 pound Ground Beef
2 tablespoon Canola Oil 
1 small Onion
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder 
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder 
1 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1 1/2 teaspoon Coriander powder 
1 tablespoon Paprika 
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
2 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 1/2 pounds Russet Potatoes 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Egg
1/2-1 cup Breadcrumbs 
Canola Oil for deep frying

Start by boiling potatoes till cooked.

Peel and mash potatoes. Use a ricer if you have one as you will have a lump free mash. 

Salt potatoes and keep aside.

Chop onion very finely.

Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a saucepan.

Add onion and saute till golden brown.

Put turmeric, chile, cumin, coriander powders, paprika and garlic paste into a bowl. Add vinegar and stir till you have a smooth paste.

Scrape paste into browned onions and saute on a medium flame for 5-7 minutes or till paste loses its rawness and turns aromatic.

Add ground beef to saucepan and stir it well, smooshing it so you do not have any lumps. The beef should acquire a granular consistency.

Let the beef saute for 5-8 minutes till brown. 

Season with salt.

Add 1/2 cup of water to beef. Do not cover. Cook till beef is dry, stirring often, for about 10 minutes. Cool. 

Divide beef into 12 portions.

Divide mashed potatoes into 12 portions.

Take one potato ball and massage it till it is smooth. 

Use your thumb to make a depression in the center, using your fingers to hollow out the center. 

Fill with one portion of ground beef. 

Cradle the ball and use your fingers to bring the top together.

Flatten the patty, rotating it so the top and bottom is even. 

It's okay if the outside has oil stains. The egg and breadcrumb coating will hide those imperfections.

Repeat with rest of the potato and beef.

Break the egg in bowl. Whisk well till blended.

Dip potato chop in egg. Place the chop in breadcrumbs. Coat the chop on all sides with breadcrumbs. Repeat process with all chops.

Heat 1-1/2-2 cups canola oil in a deep frying pan or wok. 

Drop a potato chop gently into hot oil. Fry till golden brown on one side for 2-3 minutes. Flip carefully and brown the other side. Repeat with the rest of the chops. 

Serve chops as a first course or part of your meal. Tomato ketchup is the relish of choice!

Pam hasn't visited for while, though her culinary legacy is recreated frequently. When I do, I hear her, sometimes on Facetime, an app she has mastered at the ripe old age of ninety, and often in the recesses of my mind, her words guiding my hand with her expertise and candor. She has a plethora of redoubtable kitchen wisdom, given liberally. Some of it sticks and some hovers in the wings, yet these cuisine commandments are forever embedded in my consciousness.