Saturday, February 28, 2009
Especially when it leads to something yummy to eat!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I planned to participate in this week's BSI contest, hosted by Nicole at Just Sweet Enough. This week's ingredient was black beans, which I happen to like quite a bit. I just wasn't sure what I wanted to make. I figured there would be a lot of submissions for soups, burgers, dips, etc. which all sound great, but of course I wanted mine to be different. I thought long and hard and finally came up with something! Go me!
I know I yak a lot before I get around to the recipe, but I like to explain the background and thought process. So keep reading if you want or skip ahead to the recipe.
What I decided on was like an homage to and a slight twist on a childhood favorite of mine (it's still one of my favorites). I have always loved what we called Aloo Chops, which are breaded cutlets made of out of spiced-up mashed potato and usually encase a filling of ground meat. Sometimes they were made without the filling. This seems to be a popular Bengali snack food and has also made appearances at dinner parties. It's really good, trust me.
I've made straight up aloo chops before, so I knew the procedure. I first thought about using black beans for the filling, but decided that since the ingredient for BSI was black beans they should have more of a starring rather than support role. Then I came up with the idea of using mashed black beans and potatoes to make the chops and forgo the filling. Now I was on to something!
So last night after work I stopped at the store for some ingredients and set to work. The playing with my food part was as I was gleefully mixing everything up with my hands and forming the chops. It was so much fun, it reminded me of when I used to play with Play Doh. Don't worry, I refrained from making little animals or whatever it was I used to make.
I have a hard time coming up with titles for stuff, so I wasn't sure what to call this recipe. If I just wanted to be simple I would call it a black bean aloo chop, but that doesn't sound very glamorous, does it? How about this?
Spiced Black Bean and Potato Cakes
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 green chili, thinly sliced (do not use jalapeno or bell pepper, only the thin or serrano peppers)
1/2 tsp ginger paste or minced ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 can black beans, drained, rinsed, and coarsely mashed (you want some identifiable chunks)
1 large potato, boiled or microwaved, peeled, broken into large chunks
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. paprika or chili powder (use cayenne if you really want it spicy, but use less)
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. amchur (dried mango powder, substitute lemon juice or omit)
salt to taste
Heat about 2 tsp. of canola oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the green chili slices if using, then the ginger, and garlic. Cook for a couple minutes, adding water if needed.
Add the coarsely mashed beans and potato, and combine thoroughly. You'll end up mashing the beans and potatoes a little as you combine, and this is fine. Add water as necessary to keep the mixture from drying up.
Take a large bowl, and add the bean and potato mixture. Add the spices and use your hands to mix everything up. Taste and adjust spices as necessary to your liking. Add water as necessary to keep the mixture from drying up and to incorporate the spices. You are going to end up with a wet dough at this point. Add bread crumbs as necessary to stabilze the dough so that it doesn't fall apart.
Now for the fun part. With your hands, form the dough into a large ball. Divide this into eighths. Take each eighth and form into a large ball, working to make it smooth. Then take the ball in one hand and use the other to flatten it from the top. Don't make it too flat, you want these to be thick and substantial. Use your hands to smooth the edges. These will look like hockey pucks when you're done -- see picture below.
Once you've made the cakes, let them sit on a plate for about 20 minutes to set up.
You can cook these a few ways:
If you want to make them like traditional chops, you can dip in egg and bread crumb and then fry. I didn't want to mess around with all that.
You can also bake these.
If you fry them, you have 2 options. You can take about 2 tbsp. oil and heat and then fry, but be careful since the cakes soften considerably when they fry in the oil, so be careful when turning them over. The second option is the one I ended up liking the best -- just "dry" frying in a hot pan so that they got a nice brown crust.
The verdict? I liked these a lot! They tasted like the aloo chops of my childhood, but the beans added a new dimension to them and made them more substantial. Mr. Spice ended up liking them too but suggested I make them more spicy next time. I have to confess to eating 2 almost as soon as they were out of the pan. Since I liked the way the dry fried ones looked, I used those for the final photos. :)