July 25, 2011

Potato Parathas

It's hard to post if you don't cook. And I haven't been. But not because I've been worn out or disinterested. It's just that for the past few weeks I've been in the warm embrace of my family in Thailand. This means that I eat a lot of Thai food, either out at a restaurant, or brought in. Or that my mother cooks delicious meals for me. She loves to do it, and I, being a dutiful daughter, have to let her.

Or it means I eat delicious things like this:
These are vegetarian Burmese style noodles made by Goma, my parents' housekeeper, who is Burmese but  of Nepali descent, and a strict pure-veg Hindu. She's always making delicious things and leaving them on the stove for us. As you might imagine, the Vegetarian loves Goma and has been in heaven.

But I've been sitting on this post for a while. For one thing, I love the ladies whose recipe I'm showcasing and have been wanting to give them a shoutout on my blog. For another, this post is a total counterpoint to the one I did on bao in which I extoll the virtues of letting other people make things for you.

In this case, I did the opposite.

I made potato parathas instead of buying them.

But, before anyone points a "j'accuse!" finger of hypocrisy at me, I will confess that I do usually buy them, on my Indian shopping sprees to Patel Bros. in Jackson Heights—about a dozen bags at a time. You see, potato parathas are a staple in my house. The kids can't live without them, and if they go a few weeks and there aren't any around, the whining will begin.

This winter, it so happened that I didn't get to Patel Bros. for months. Our paratha supply ran dry. The wee ones went into withdrawal.

I had to do something. So, inspired by these lovely ladies, I decided to try making my own.

I had avoided making filled parathas for years. It just seemed so hard, encasing the filling in the dough and everything. But you know what?

It was easy. Really, really easy. Here's the link to the recipe. And, now that I've done it a few times, a couple of tips:

1) the potatoes need to be really dry. I usually microwave mine or use leftover baked. If you boil them, drain as soon as they are done and put them back on the stove in the empty pan and shake the pan over high heat until they dry a little. If the potatoes are too wet, the filling will be too wet and it will ooze out of the paratha, making it impossible to roll the bread out and also making a big big mess. Trust me. I speak from experience.

2) If you can't find chaat masala, you can use another spice blend, or make your own. I have used both chana masala mix and sambar powder. I also add a few whole toasted cumin seeds to the filling.

3) a cast iron griddle (I use my cast iron tawa, or indian griddle, that I inherited from my mom) works great. These breads don't stick, but a little oil brushed on them during cooking improves the flavor immensely. As does a little butter or ghee put on top before serving. And keep the heat at medium, so that they can cook through before the outsides get too brown.

4) The first time I made the parathas with atta, Indian chapati flour, but then I ran out and, since I couldn't get back to Patel Bros. to get more (if I had, I would have just bought the parathas), I had to find a substitute. White whole wheat flour works very very well. I would give atta a slight edge, but white whole wheat flour is a) available almost anywhere, unlike atta, and b) can be used for other things as well.

5) Stack the cooked parathas in a covered container like tortillas and they will keep at room temp for a few hours and in the fridge for a few days. They even freeze beautifully. (Reheat in a toaster oven. This is a breakfast/snack staple in our house.) I've been on the lookout for a stainless steel lidded container like my Indian aunties use, but so far no luck. Here they are stacked:

But honestly, the first time I made them, I was amazed at how good and easy they are. They're very forgiving. Plus, they're nutritious—what with the whole wheat flour and potatoes and all. 

I'm happy every time the soccer monster scarfs a couple up.