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Recipe: Burik con Patate
From Leah Koenig's ‘Portico: Cooking and Feasting in Rome's Jewish Kitchen’
While visiting Rome, I had the good fortune of dining at the home of Daniela Gean and Roberto Attias. The husband-and-wife team run Mezè Bistrot, a restaurant in Rome’s Monteverde neighborhood that specializes in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Among the many dishes Daniela (who was born in Libya and immigrated to Rome with her family when she was one) served, her potato burik was the standout. The homemade pastry was ethereally light, with wispy edges that crackled and crunched with each bite. And inside was a filling of creamy mashed potatoes flavored with softened onion, parsley, and a hint of cinnamon.
Making the pastry leaves can be tricky to master, and they require practice and a quick, steady hand. Libyan Jewish grandmothers traditionally spread the batter on the hot pan with their fingertips, but a large pastry brush (or a clean paintbrush) works just as well, without the chance of burning yourself. Be patient, and you will eventually get the hang of it.
Savory Fried Potato Pastries
Burik con Patate
MAKES ABOUT 20 BURIK
For the Filling
3 medium russet potatoes (about 1½ pounds / 680 g), peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
For the Burik Wrappers
1½ cups (210 g) all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon vegetable oil (such as sunflower or grapeseed)
¾ cup water (180 ml), plus more if needed
Vegetable oil (such as sunflower or grapeseed) for cooking the wrappers and frying the burik
NOTE: If you are short on time, store-bought square egg roll wrappers make a tasty shortcut.
MAKE THE FILLING: Add the potatoes to a medium pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil over high heat, then cook until potatoes are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon and salt, and remove from the heat.
When the potatoes are done, drain, transfer to a large bowl, and mash with a potato masher until creamy.
Add the softened onions to the mashed potatoes, along with the parsley, and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if needed. Set aside. (The potato mixture can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored, covered, in the fridge.)
MAKE THE BATTER: Add the flour, salt, vinegar, and oil to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the water and process until you have a very smooth batter the consistency of a loose (but not thin or runny) pancake batter. If needed, add more water or flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Transfer the batter to a bowl and let rest for 1 hour.
MAKE THE WRAPPERS: Place an 8-inch (20 cm) nonstick frying pan over the lowest possible heat. When it is hot, add about ½ teaspoon of oil to the pan and use a paper towel to spread it around. (You are going for the bare minimum of oil.)
Pour about 1 tablespoon of the batter into the pan and, using a large pastry brush, quickly brush it into a thin layer all over the bottom. (If the batter is too thick to spread effectively, whisk in a little more water.) Cook until the top of the wrapper is fully dry and the edges are beginning to curl, then carefully transfer to a plate. (It is okay if there are a few small holes in the wrapper.) Continue making wrappers, stacking them with squares of parchment paper between them, until you’ve used all the batter.
FILL AND FRY THE BURIK: Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the potato filling into the center of one wrapper, fold it in half to make a half-moon shape, and press the edges together to seal. Continue until either all of the filling or all of the wrappers are used up.
Line a large baking sheet with a layer of paper towels and set aside. Heat ¼ inch (6 mm) of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Working in batches of 4 or 5, gently slip the burik into the oil and cook, turning once, until crispy and golden on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the fried burik to the prepared baking sheet to drain. Serve warm.
Excerpted from Portico: Cooking and Feasting in Rome's Jewish Kitchen. Copyright © 2023 by Leah Koenig. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.