Yesterday our potatoes took us to the Canary Islands; today we are off to Calcutta. Amazing how a tuber can transport you from your dingy office in doleful NoPe to a vibrant exotic locale. The following South Indian recipe is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking, and it produces the most pleasantly piquant potatoes you will ever eat. Seriously. If you don't take my word for it, take Madhur's: "Can you imagine cubes of potato encrusted with spicy, crisply browned ginger-garlic paste? Add to that a hint of fennel, if you want it. That is what these potatoes taste like." As she suggests, they are the potatoes of your dreams.
Recipe: Sookhe aloo (dry potatoes with ginger and garlic)
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking (1983). Makes 2 servings.
If you already have the spices, this dish costs about 50 cents to make. Madhur Jaffrey's recipe has you boiling the potatoes "in their jackets," then letting them cool, peeling them, and finally frying them. If you are a purist about ethnic recipes, go ahead (all Madhur's potato recipes involve this long process), but I find it's a whole lot quicker to just peel the potatoes raw and fry them -- and the results are still delicious. I add a few glops of plain yogurt at the end, for tartness and texture. The spice paste would also be great as a marinade.
5 T vegetable oil
1 t fennel seeds (optional, but highly recommended)
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger (or 1 t ground ginger)
1/2 t ground turmeric
1 t salt
1/2 t cayenne pepper
2 T water
A few spoonfuls of yogurt (optional)
Special equipment: mortar and pestle or food processor
Heat the oil in a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, till they are starting to brown, about 20 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking, make the spice paste: in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle, grind together the garlic, ginger, turmeric, salt, and cayenne, and add the water a little bit at a time. Set aside. Add the fennel seeds to the pan and cook for an additional two minutes. Stir in the spice paste and cook for yet another two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt, if using. Serve warm.