Roasted potatoes with curry gravy

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Nick Roumel

I really should know better than to even attempt a British recipe. “England” and “food”, historically, do not belong in the same sentence or — frankly — any sensible person’s kitchen.  But here I went, breaking my own rule, trying to replicate one of my favorite snacks.

“Curried chips” is an English (and Irish) snack that involves fried potatoes (more similar to thick French fries; yum, how can you go wrong there?) topped with a curry sauce, reflecting the Indian influence to their cuisine.

England’s trade with India reached a peak in the 18th and 19th centuries, essentially rising to the level of a monopoly.  Brits brought home tastes of India, and “curry houses” flourished in the 1800’s.  Indian-derived recipes like Chicken Tikka Masala and Mulligatawny Soup are among England’s most popular dishes.

When I actually tasted curried chips in England, they were serviceable but the combination only croaked a few rough notes when it should have sung like a diva.

Curious, when I returned home, I started looking at some recipes — and therein I saw the problem. Instead of the silky curry gravy that I developed to go with my homemade pasties (another dish from across the pond), the British “curry sauce” I found in recipes was a harsh and busy mess.  The Irish versions fared no better, adding apples and even raisins to try and balance the flavors, akin to putting a tutu on Mr. Bean. To combat the lumpiness of this mishmash, recipes call for “whizzing” the final product in a blender.

Just no.

So, I voted Brexit, exiting the British culinary freeway.  Instead, I give you my own much simpler and way more delicious version of curry gravy, that you can use to top “chips,” roasted potatoes, pasties fresh from the oven (you’ll never go back to ketchup), scrambled eggs on toast, or fried chicken.

Roasted Potatoes with Curry Gravy
3 lbs. russet potatoes   
1-2 TBS olive oil
Kosher salt
1 TBS butter
1 TBS flour
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth (I use “Better than Bouillon”)
1 to 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp hot ground chilé powder (not commercial chili mix)
salt and pepper to taste
if you want, a dash of Frank’s (ancient Greek recipe) hot sauce

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Cut the potatoes into thick slices, toss with olive oil, and place in a shallow roasting pan in a single layer. Cook for 45-50 minutes, turning partway through cooking.

2. While the potatoes are roasting, begin the gravy by making a simple roux. Melt the butter ‘til bubbling, whisk in the flour until they are well blended.

3. Add the broth slowly, whisking all the way.

4. Add the spices, taste and correct seasoning. Refrain from lapping it up like a dog.

5. Pour over roasted potatoes.

If you want to be extra fancy, add some chopped parsley, cilantro or even chopped cashews. But who needs to be extra fancy? Mr. Bean looks just fine without a tutu.

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.

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