Sunday, April 12, 2009

Aloo Parathas, Step-By-Step

Since I had so much fun with the last "step-by-step" cooking experiment, I thought I'd do another one. This time: aloo parathas. (Mostly because I had an extra potato.) Recipe comes from Jaffrey's World-of-the-East Vegetarian, obvs. ^__^

I should warn you ahead of time that these parathas took nearly two hours, start-to-finish, to make. And the kitchen was a mess afterwards. But they were well worth it.

2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon or so of salt, 2 tablespoons oil, 2 cups water. Mix and knead until it forms a ball. We should notice right away that these parathas require considerably less oil than the "delicious, flaky" ones. I'm all for that. In fact, except for greasing the pan that's all the oil we'll need for the entire process; there's no "rub the ball with oil" or "rub the parathas with oil" or anything like that. Oh, and Jaffrey says we can use ordinary veg/canola/olive oil for this one; no need to haul out the ghee. Clearly these parathas are much less high-maintenance.

Here's the potato.

The ball of dough is supposed to sit, covered, for at least 1/2 hour. I'm not sure why. It doesn't feel any different, in terms of texture or heft or malleability, after it's sat. I'm suspicious that it may have less to do with the dough itself than that it gives you a 1/2 hour block in which to cook up the potatoes. Let's see... chop, boil, drain, mash, use the Magic Bullet to grind up a masala of fresh ginger, green chili, garam masala, cumin, and coriander seed, add masala to the mash. Let it cool so it won't burn your fingers when you add it to the parathas.

Uncover the paratha ball-of-dough, divide into eight parts. Roll each part out into a palm-sized circle. Put a small spoonful of potato mix into the circle.

Bring the edges of the circle together and twist them so they close over the potato mix. Unlike my samosa experiments, this dough actually made a seal when I did this. No idea why. (Maybe the oil-flour-water ratio???)

Gently press down on the top of the filled paratha with the heel of your hand until it begins to flatten.

Then roll it out. These will be approximately 6 inches in diameter. What's really cool is at this point you can feel that there is, in fact a potato mixture inside there, surrounded by a thin layer of dough, but the dough seams are completely gone.

Be careful not to roll it too thin, or you'll squeeze the potato out.

Heat up the pan and put just enough oil in to keep the thing from sticking. This was the hardest part of the whole process. Too much oil and the parathas never developed tasty brown spots; too little oil and my smoke alarm went off. Cook on both sides until they look like the one in the picture.

Freeze the ones you don't use and eat the rest!

And now, a note about the other dish in the picture. It's a little embarrassing. See... um... back when I tried to microwave my Farmers' Market cheddar cheese and realized I couldn't get it to melt in the microwave (low oil content), I thought "ooh, then I can use it in recipes instead of paneer!" (This is again because there's nowhere I can buy paneer in a 60-mile radius, and the stock I bought in January has run out.)

I pulled out the recipe for mattar paneer and found out, to my unfortunate surprise, that Farmers' Market cheddar does in fact melt when it's put into a frying pan. In fact, it melts almost instantly. So I hauled it out of the pan and decided to replace it with canned black beans since it was the quickest protein I had on hand.

But there was a problem. Canned black beans come in their own goo, and I did not want all that brown goo to pollute my pretty red-and-green dish; I was going to take a picture of it, after all! So here I am in my kitchen, tomatoes and peas bubbling in their ginger sauce on one burner, a paratha activating my smoke alarm on the other burner, a glopful of melted cheddar cheese on the counter, and I'm rinsing off canned black beans in the sink, a handful at a time, letting the water run through my fingers until it ran clear.

I'd do a handful, throw them into the mattar mix, flip a paratha, and then rinse another handful. (In hindsight I should have just gotten out the colander.) But those black beans did not turn the dish brown! (I also would not recommend recreating the mattar black bean recipe; it doesn't taste awful or anything but it's not the kind of thing one would want to cook on purpose. The beans are way too heavy for the spices.)

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