Monday, January 21, 2013

Lead a Happy Life--Eat Bolani

Bolani is an Afghani stuffed flatbread that makes an amazing appetizer or main course. When served with the myriad of condiments mentioned below, this is one of my very favorite foods of all time. Of course, that's also probably at least partly because I'm a hopeless condiment whore. 

This recipe makes roughly 16 bolani—enough appetizers for about 12 hungry guests. If you’re hosting fewer people or are making it as a full meal for a few people, rather than an appetizer, cut the recipe in half. Bolani also refrigerates well. 

Bolani can have different fillings, including spinach, lentils, pumpkin, butternut squash, or leeks. So a potato filling is not mandatory. And also note that if you want to lighten this dish up, you don’t have to fry the bolani. You can just brush them with oil and bake at 400 degrees until the outsides begin to brown (flipping halfway through).

Finally, note that the potato filling from this recipe makes a pretty rad choice any time you want to try a new twist on mashed potatoes. 

Prep time: 2 cocktails

6 cups unbleached white flour
2 cup water room temperature
2 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil

4 medium-sized russet potatoes
1 bunch finely chopped cilantro
1 bunch finely chopped scallions white and green parts
¼ cup olive oil
1 TBSP salt
2 tsp ground black pepper

Finishing touches:
½ cup canola or other vegetable oil
1 batch CilantroChutney 

First prepare the dough: Mix the flour and 2 tsp salt together in a large bowl.  As you continue to mix, slowly add the water and the 2 teaspoons of oil and mix the dough together, kneading it a little until it forms a ball.  If the dough is too dry to come together, add more water, a tablespoon at a time.  Once the dough is formed, knead it for at least 10 minutes on a lightly floured cutting board.  Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a cloth and let it rest for one hour.

As the dough sets, prepare the filling: Boil or microwave the potatoes until soft in the center when pierced with a fork.  Remove from the water and, when cool enough to handle, slip the skins off the potatoes.  Put the potatoes, cilantro, scallions, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mash together with a potato masher until thoroughly combined. Some lumps are ok.

Now construct the bolanis: Take a small amount of dough the size of a golf ball and roll into a smooth ball.  Spread some flour on the wood board and roll out the dough using a rolling pin.  Continue to flatten the dough until it takes a round shape, is as thin as a tortilla, and about 8-10  inches across.  The thinner the dough the better.  Cut off any irregularities with a pizza cutter or knife so you have a perfect circle. Spread roughly 1/2 cup of potato mixture on one side of the dough, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the rim.  Fold the other half over and press the dough together with your finger to form a seal, as though you’re building a calzone.

Heat the remaining ½ cup of oil in a 10-12 inch frying pan over medium heat.  Brown the bolani, two at a time, until golden on both sides.  The bolani should sizzle when they hit the pan. Lay cooked bolani on a paper towel. Add more oil to your pan if your oil starts to reduce. Bolani are best served warm.

Just before serving, cut the bolani into wedges that are manageable as a finger food. The bolani pieces should be smeared with each of the three spreads when eating. It is pure heaven!

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