Are you getting into the Holiday spirit? I am but just a little bit. When did I become so cynical? I suspect it was when I realised I didn’t need to drag on these feelings of cheer until one particular day. I could exhaust all of it the morning of, right before I saw my presents under a tree. It was fake, of course. The tree was. Right after my parents would break the news that we could only open them AFTER church. Try getting children to listen and respond to church things after that. “Are you putting on your shoes? I see just one shoe. Where is your sister? GET AWAY FROM THE PRESENTS.”
I have complained a lot about why I can’t truly embrace Thanksgiving. In reality, it’s only because my first one here as a resident was so dark. Literally and in my brain too. I’ve had my time to think things over and how I feel somewhere deep, deep down in my cold heart is that it’s not that bad. It’s one of the most welcoming holidays for anyone who has set foot in this country and has the chance to call it home. Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to work at a grocery store and this week has been one of the biggest eye-openers for me. My manager called it “our Superbowl”. Employees have gone months into preparing to make that one single meal an experience to cherish and hopefully a story to pass on to the future. People of all ages, nationalities, religions and sexualities walk the aisles latched on to their hand-printed or computer-printed grocery lists, scratching things off as they go around the store. Mothers with daughters, partners, solo fliers, dads with daughters, grandmothers with grandchildren. All of them are looking to begin a tradition or pass one down that would help them remember their heritage. They all look beautifully, wonderfully American. Take it from an immigrant always on the outside looking in, this diversity – just like slice-able cranberry sauce is a can – is what truly and undeniably makes this country great.
I’m not sure what the origin of this recipe is and neither do I know where the name “potato chops” came from. What I do know that it’s a favourite among the beef-eating Indians in Goa. Every person in my family has made this, eaten it and loved it. It’s something we can all agree on and I’m sure if my family was here with me at this time of the year, potato chops would definitely be on our Holiday table. You can make this with a vegetarian filling as well. I know a mushroom filling would work well. We also make an oval and more rounded version of this called an “egg chop”, with a halved or quartered piece of boiled egg as the filling.
Makes 14 potato chops
- 4-5 russet potatoes (1 1/2 kg or a little less than 3 1/2 lbs)
- 3-4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
- 1 cup red onion (1/2 medium onion), diced
- 1 tbsp ginger, minced
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 1 green Thai green chilli or 1 small serrano chilli, minced
- 453 gms or 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/ 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp Indian chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup frozen green peas
- 1 cup cilantro, minced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Breadcrumbs or semolina, to coat
- More ghee or oil, to fry
- Tomato sauce/Ketchup, to serve
Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover them in water and salt. Let the water come to a boil on medium-high heat and then turn down the heat to medium low. Cover the pot and let the potatoes boil until they are fork-tender (that is until you can easily pierce them right through the middle with a fork), about 30 minute. Drain the water carefully and peel the potatoes once they have cooled down. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or a fork until smooth. Some small chunks are definitely okay. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
Heat the ghee in a pot on medium heat and once hot add the onion, ginger, garlic and green chilli to it. The ingredients should sizzle as soon as the hit the ghee. Stir frequently until the onions turn soft and are slightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Add the ground beef to the pot and mix well to combine. Let the beef brown well and once it has released all its juices (in 4-5 minutes), add in the spices. Stir well and then add the tomato paste. Cook for 1 minute and lastly, add the frozen peas and salt to taste. Let the peas cook until they are tender (about 2 minutes) and then take the pot off the heat. Add the cilantro and stir to combine.
Once the potatoes and beef have both cooled, create an assembly line in the following order: Mashed potatoes, beef filling, empty plates.
Gather an ice-cream scoop sized +a little more chunk of mashed potato and form it into a ball. Place the potato ball in the cup of your hand, and press it down in the middle, flattening it slightly to create a hollow space. Add some of the ground beef filling into this space and pull the edges of the potato over the filling to cover it up and form it back into a ball. Pat it down in the middle and form it into a disc shape by smoothing it around the edges (see pictures). Repeat until you’ve run out of potatoes and beef. If you have one or more of the other, eat them with eggs the next morning. Refrigerate the potato chops for 30 minutes until the firm up a bit.
Create another assemble line in the following order: Potato chops, beaten eggs, breadcrumbs, same empty plates they were in before.
Carefully dip the potato chops in the beaten eggs and drip off excess. Coat the chops with breadcrumbs and then place it on the plate. Repeat with all the potato chops.
Coat the base of a frying pan with ghee or oil to thickly coat the base of a frying pan. By that I mean it should cover it once and have a little bit more to spare. Heat the oil on medium-high heat and add the potato chops to it. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until a crisp, deep brown colours both sides of the chops. The time it takes to cook subsequent batches might decrease as the pan gets hotter. Keep adding more oil and letting it heat as you fry. Serve with tomato sauce, as we call ketchup in the homeland.