Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Beef Cutlets

2014 May 26_0370_edited-1
2014 May 26_0394_edited-1

Over Memorial Day, my partner Chris and I traveled west to attend my cousin Mithu’s wedding. The ceremony took place at the Fort Mason Center, which overlooks the San Francisco Bay. After the couple said their “I dos,” we stood in the sun, sipping Cochin Gin and Tonics flavored with a pinch of cardamom. Waiters wooed us with pan-fried plantains and melt-in-your-mouth ceviche. The hors d'oeuvres were followed by platters of perfectly seasoned tacos. Drunk with happiness (and booze), we embraced day five of our royal treatment.

Raw beef with cardamom cloves cinnamon

As guests, we had been treated like royalty the moment we landed in California. My Uncle Mathew and Aunt Anu insisted on providing us with curb side pickup at the airport. They fed us scratch cooked meals three times a day (which included dosa and sambar, appam with egg roast, and barbequed tandoori chicken with potatoes). In between, we snacked on homemade beef cutlets and samosas from Trader Joe’s. In the evenings, my Uncle cracked open several bottles of wine to wash it all down.

Shaping and coating beef cutlets

Over the course of our stay, neither of us lifted a finger or spent a dime. It reminded me of trips to India where hospitality means everything.

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Thanks to its Christian population, Kerala is one of two states in India that allows for the consumption of beef. In our family, Beef Cutlets are a staple at family reunions and large celebrations. Preparing them is a multi-stepped process. But don’t worry. I’m sure you (and your guests) will find that it’s worth every bite.

Makes 30


2 medium Idaho or Russet potatoes
2 pounds 90% lean angus beef
2 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks
16 cardamom pods
16 cloves
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
20 black peppercorns
3 tablespoons olive or canola oil plus 2 cups for frying
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 small serrano pepper, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups bread crumbs


Boil the potatoes until fork tender. Cool. Peel and mash.

Place the beef, cinnamon sticks, 12 cardamom pods, 12 cloves, and water in a medium sized saute pan. Cook on medium low heat for about 20 minutes or until the beef is thoroughly cooked. Transfer the beef to a colander to drain the fat. (This helps to ensure that the beef patties will hold together.)

Blend the remaining cardamom pods, cloves, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and black peppercorns in a spice grinder until they form a fine powder.

Heat the oil in a medium sized saute pan on medium low heat. Add the ground spices and cook for 1 minute. Add the onions, serrano pepper, ginger, and salt. Cook until the onions turn translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add the cooked beef to the onion mixture and stir to combine. Add the potatoes and mash all of the ingredients together to fully incorporate the potatoes.

Shaped the mixture into 30 2-inch patties and place them on cookie sheets.

Place the eggs in a small bowl and beat together. Place the bread crumbs in a small bowl.

One by one, coat each patty with eggs and then bread crumbs. Before transferring a patty to the bread crumbs, hold it above the bowl of beaten eggs to allow any excess to drain off. When the bread crumbs become clumpy (which will happen after you’ve dipped enough patties), add a few more tablespoons of bread crumbs to refresh bowl. Also, your fingers will become breaded at some point. Rub off the coating over the garbage or sink periodically.
Layer two cookie sheets with paper towels.

Heat 2 cups of oil in a fry pan over medium high heat. Place a pinch of the bread crumb egg batter in the pan. When it rises to the top and bubbles, the oil is ready to use.

Carefully lower 4 patties into the oil. Flip immediately with a slotted spoon (otherwise the breading will crack). Cook until teddy bear brown.

Place on the cookie sheets to cool.

To reheat cutlets: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not microwave cutlets as the breading becomes soggy.

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