On our way back home from Orange County this past Thursday, JM and I stopped in Artesia for some good old-fashioned southern Indian food at the absolutely amazing and very reasonably priced Surati Farsan Mart. Don’t be fooled by the Mart’s sweet-shop vibe — there is an entire kitchen beyond the league of extraordinary gentlemen behind the snack counter, and the cooks in it produce a formidable variety of incredible dishes. As a result, when I go there, I become the Bride of Foodenstein: I eat something familiar, something new, something stolen from my friend’s plate, and something I don’t actually have room for but desperately want.
The something familiar, in my case, is always the masala dosa. Because, really, who can resist the crispy, spicy, flavorful combination of crepe and potatoes just melting in your mouth? I would drive an hour in traffic for that pleasure, and often do. It’s just so, so good. It’s so good that I experience aftershocks. In this particular case, the aftershocks involved me recreating a dosa-like meal on my own turf, less spicy and less crispy but definitely in the general spirit of the thing. It’s like that scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when Richard Dreyfuss obsessively makes the UFO out of mashed potatoes during dinner, and his kids start to cry; I totally know what that’s like, just wanting to create and recreate the scene of the crime, when your taste buds lost their innocence to something truly divine and all you can do is just imitate the approximate shape of it until the next glorious encounter.
These crepes lack the fermented flavor and crispiness of the dosa, making the dish more like a hybrid between the French-style crepe and its Indian cousin. That didn’t end up being a problem, actually, as evinced by all of these puppies being devoured by myself and my eating compadres, JM and Lara. This recipe is also very flexible, and I would suggest using it as a launchpad for your own Close Food Encounter. If you’re a sucker for cheese, just fill ’em with cheese. If you like meat, put a goat in there. In any case, if it makes your kids cry, you’re probably on the right track.
Rice crepes with Rosemary Sweet Potato Filling
(Serves 3-4 compadres)
-1 cup rice flour (white or brown)
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
-1 cup milk
-1 tbsp melted coconut oil
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients until smooth. Pour, using a 1/4 cup measure, into a medium-sized, very hot, nonstick (or generously greased) skillet — I used a cast-iron skillet with more coconut oil for frying, and it worked like a charm. When the batter is in the pan, turn it carefully to evenly distribute the batter in a thin disk. Cook for about 30-45 seconds per side, until brown. Set finished crepes aside on a plate until you’re ready to fill them. They’ll stay soft, I promise.
-3 sweet potatoes, baked or boiled ahead of time, with the flesh scraped into a bowl
-1 red onion, diced
-1 garlic clove, minced
-1 tbs agave
-1-2 tbs fresh rosemary, chopped
-1/2 cup grated semi-hard cheese, like Comté or Manchego
-salt to taste
-fresh chives (as many as you have crepes)
Mix together the sweet potatoes, agave, rosemary, and salt in a large mixing bowl, and set aside. Heat a little oil in a nonstick pan and sauté the onions and garlic over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Let them cool a little before mixing them in with the potato filling. Preheat the oven to around 150-200°F, just enough to melt the cheese in the assembled crepes.
Lay a chive horizontally across the counter, and put a crepe on top so that the edges of the chive peek out at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock on each side. Put a golf-ball sized amount of filling into the middle of the crepe, sprinkle with cheese, and then fold the edges of the crepe over the center until it looks like a little burrito. Use the chive to keep the folds in place, either by tying it or just wrapping it around the center. My, my, that looks very put together. I’m impressed. I always knew you were more than just a pretty face.
Put the assembled crepes in an oven-safe dish and pop them in there for a few minutes to melt the cheese and get all the ingredients to approximately the same temperature. Serve. Impress your friends and family. And know that, someday, the UFO will come back for you.