“Kotlet, the greasy companion”

[This post contains excerpts from my culinary memoir]

Kotlet, an Iranian version of  cutlet, is a perfect candidate for supper which also falls somewhere between an elaborate, home-made food and a delicious fast food for people of all walks of life, and is-always linked to community, intimacy and fun. It is the food one always chooses as a companion to a family picnic, as an on-the-road meal, and the food of choice on back-breaking days (Pizza just would not measure up!) Indeed kotlet has a great cultural significance- in my eyes anyway.

Ingredients: Ground beef, half kg. Potatoes, 5 medium to large, boiled and grated. Eggs, 2 small or 1 large. Onion, 1 medium, grated.  Turmeric, ½ tea spoon. All-purpose flour OR bread-crumb, as coating. 3 tbs. Salt and powdered black pepper to taste, and LOTS of oil! Note: The proportion of ground meat to boiled potatoes is not fixed, although the standard is to have slightly more meat than potatoes in the mix. More meat makes the kotlet a bit more difficult to handle during the frying process, but results in a crispier final product (not necessarily more delicious though)

Method: Mix meat, boiled/grated potatoes, egg(s), grated onion, salt, pepper and turmeric.  Knead well (not as long you would kebab koobideh mix, though). Form a homogenous, football-sized mass and let it set for about half an hour.

Cover a clean surface with bread-crumb or flour. Take almost-40 gr.-pieces from the big ball and, one at the time, roll them on the bread-crumbed surface, then flatten each on the surface in palm shape (some skilled cooks actually shape it in their palm without using any coating). These are your kotlet patties, which will soon go to the frying pan. They should be of equal size and shape; they must also be hard enough to be carried by hand.

Heat about 3 tbsp. cooking oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, transfer patties into the oil; drop them from a cautiously low height, and leave enough room between the kotlets in the frying pan to move them around easily.  The less the number of patties in the pan, the easier to manage them, and of course, the longer you will be standing there, breathing the savory haze of kotlet (which will stick to your cloths and hair for days to come mind you!).  Another important “note” is about the heat over which the patties are fried: If the heat is too low, kotlets turn soft. Ideally, they should be fried over medium to high heat, but you be the judge and adjust accordingly.

Once the edges on one side of the patty are browned, turn it and brown the other side. Try to turn them only once to lower the chance of breaking them. And remember, once every 6-7 patties are browned, you need to add oil to the frying pan, as kotlet must be fried in a lot of oil to be tender and crisp, yet cooked-to-the core.  You could place the fried kotlets on a paper towel for at least an hour to extract excess oil, but never try to squeeze the oil out of warm kotlets, as they will lose their crispy texture.  The kotlet of my fondest memories, however, was intentionally, tremendously and shamelessly greasy.

Kotlet goes very well with Iranian torshi, plenty of raw herbs, sabzi; they can be made into sandwiches with baguette, or taken with flat bread, served cold or hot , even with plain white rice.

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