bits and pieces

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lebanese Potatoes: batata-ti batata-ta

yum yum yum, eat eat eat, potato patata batata


It is SNOWING. Right now. Thanks to our tropical Saskatchewan climate we've got our first cm of snow bright and early on a Monday morning.

Now I know winter is inevitable and I even like winter (most days). The bright sun, the windex blue skies and the crisp, calm, quiet that a winter morning possesses. See? I like it. Most days. But today is not one of those days. The start of winter is always met with a little bit of dread and this winter more than most. Last winter was my first here on the Prairies and not only was it bitterly cold and a record snowfall, it lasted for EIGHT flippin' months. So understandably, a mid-October snowfall has me a little anxious for the 8 months to come.

So what to to, what to do? Load up on veggies, squash, and potatoes! Even though my household numbers 2 people and 1 cat, we always have a 10 lbs bag of potatoes handy. They're affordable, hard to mess up, and a nice quick side when your brain won't think of recipes.

Now I don't think there's a culture that does potatoes badly, however, I think it's safe to say that Lebanese cuisine has some particularly delicious potatoes. There was a shish-taouk spot in Montreal named Boustan's that had some PHENOMENAL creamy garlic potatoes. Mr. Boustan was amazing; if you went at 11 am - he was there. 2 am? He was there. 5 pm? There. Smiling, moustached, and always making you a 'special' with extra potatoes. There was a nation wide uproar when Mr. Boustan did an interview with a local paper indicating he might retire at some point and that his children didn't want to take over the business. So concerned and loud was this uproar that they had to do a follow up interview.

Now these potatoes are not the Boustan potatoes of Crescent street fame - (note to self: learn to make Boustan potatoes...sell for millions) - however, these are another good Lebanese-y potato. Apparently a take on a recipe called batata harra, I  dare you not to like these potatoes. Double cooked, garlicky, and fresh with cilantro - they're warm, bright, and fun to say. Half the reason I like making this recipe is so I can say batata (trans: potato) repeatedly.

Eat batata, and be merry!

3 cups of cubed potatoes, roughly in 1/2 inch pieces (can go bigger or smaller - just pay attention to cooking times)
4-6 cloves of garlic, smashed, minced or grated. The level of garlicky goodness is up to you - but remember it keeps colds away!
5 tbsp olive oil
1/8 cup chopped cilantro (just a small handful - finely chopped)
a pinch of red pepper flakes - optional

kosher salt
black pepper

other things you will need: 
a baking tray
a frying pan
a garlic press 
knife and cutting board

  1. Preheat your oven to 425. 
  2. Pop your batatas onto your baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil and pop them in the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes or until they're just starting to get golden and crispy. You can also deep fry them for extra goodness but I chose to bake them. 
  3. Once your potatoes/ batatas are out of the oven - heat the remaining olive oil in your frying pan over medium heat. Once it's shiny - add your garlic and sautee for a minute or two until fragrant. Do not let your garlic brown. This will make it bitter as opposed to garlicky and good. 
  4. After your garlic is fragrant and buzzing merrily in the pan, add your chopped cilantro and red pepper flakes (if included) and sautee for another minute.
  5. Add your potatoes/patatas/batatas and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes - keeping a close eye on your garlic - until they're beginning to crisp a little more. Remove from heat, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and some pepper (optional) and serve as a lovely side, or become so enamoured of these potatoes that you eat only them. 

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