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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Burning momo madness: Tibetan curried potatoes

Potatoes cooked with spices in ghee; braised carrots and fennel bulb

I think I got this recipe from the NY Times a few years back. It’s really called momo. You’re supposed to make it with clarified butter. This is butter that has been heated until the milk solids separate. You use the strained liquid. This is a fat you can use at high temperature and you can keep unrefrigerated for weeks. But then I read this in my handy Joy of Cooking:

Ghee is cooked longer than clarified butter, so the sugars in the butter are lightly caramelized, imparting an incomparably nutty flavor.

And I thought, why not go the distance and use ghee instead? To do so you just heat the butter longer (on the lowest heat, never letting it reach a simmer). And Joy was right, it does have a gorgeous nutty flavor.

I’m afraid that flavor gets lost in the momo, especially the way I made it. Be warned, this is incredibly spicy. You may want to either reduce the amount of cayenne or serve with a healthy scoop of plain yogurt. I cried all the way through my meal. All we had on hand was some peach drinking yogurt (which I pretended was laasi) and milk. Also, if you don’t have Sichuan peppercorns handy it’ll taste pretty good without.

6 medium Yukon gold potatoes
2 T soy sauce
½ t Sichuan peppercorns
1 stubby piece of fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 t tumeric
1 t cayenne
1 t salt
4T (1/2 stick) clarified butter (or, to make the same amount of ghee, use a whole stick of butter)
1 scallion, minced
1 bunch cilantro, minced

Cut potatoes into 1-inch cubes and parboil for five minutes. Toss with soy sauce until absorbed.

Heat Sichuan peppercorns in a small, ungreased skillet over medium until they dance and release aroma. Turn into a small mortar and pulverize into coarse powder.

Mix pepper powder, ginger, garlic, tumeric, cayenne, and salt together to form a past. Heat clarified butter in large skillet and blend into paste. Cook, stirring with spatula or wooden spoon, for a few minutes, to let butter become fully seasoned.

Add seasoned potatoes and turn up heat to medium high. Cook until potatoes have a crunchy coating outside and are meltingly soft inside. Use a spatula to turn them constantly so that they brown on all sides (10-15 minutes). When potatoes are as described, toss in in the minced scallion and cilantro. Continue cooking for one more minute until garnishes wilt and cling to potatoes. Turn all into a serving board. “Ngotsa manang ni choe” – eat shamelessly.

As for the second veggie dish, that was literally scraping the bottom of the barrel. I had carrots and fennel bulb aging in my refrigerator, so I just braised them in some (also) leftover chicken stock.

It’s been rainy lately, so I took Jasper to the library yesterday. We found a gem in the meager children’s DVD selection: Juana la Iguana. It’s a Mexican children’s show, featuring a lovely giant iguana. There are outlandish costumes and abysmal choreography. I suspect Juana is the reincarnation of Mexican poet, mystic, and nun Sor Juana del a Cruz.

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