Saturday, January 5, 2019

Oven-Baked Falafel

A year or two ago, I tried and liked the Serious Eats falafel recipe. I would make and fry big batches and then freeze them to use for my work lunches. However, I fell out of the habit of making it because the pan frying was so tedious and they always fell apart quite a lot so I ended up with scorched bits in the pan. In the end, the reward wasn’t worth the effort. When I saw a new recipe on smitten kitchen I decided to give it a whirl. Like the Serious Eats version, this uses soaked but uncooked chickpeas. In fact, the recipes are super similar so it may be that my pulsing technique is what made the difference, that or the use of onion (I omitted scallion in the Serious Eats recipe as I dislike them intensely). I hoped that it might stay together better and it did. However, many people in the comments said that the mixture was too wet for them so I was extra careful and drained my soaked chickpeas very well. I also made no attempt to avoid pulsing the mixture into a purée—most people who had issues with the falafel balls falling apart reported that things worked better when they processed the mixture more.

Optimistically, I had made a double batch thinking I would freeze it for lunches. Then we spontaneously were invited to the house of some friends to meet their gorgeous new cat, so I offered to bring dinner—the mixture I’d had resting in the fridge all day, storebought pita and hummus (instead of making tahini sauce) and some broccoli to steam. Because there were 8 of us all wanting to eat at the same time, and because I wanted to spend my time visiting and petting the kitty, we opted to form the mixture into patties and bake them. Success!

I know that I will make this recipe much more frequently if I can do it with a fraction of the effort. I made a second double batch today so that I could freeze it and I did fry three patties as a test to see if the result was worth it. I won’t like to you: fried falafel has a crunch that oven-baking cannot match. However, that crunch is going to be dimmed significantly by freezing and re-heating and the baked result is quite nice. If you’re going to eat the whole recipe right away, by all means fry them up. But if you’re planning for the future, save yourself some time and splatters and bake them. What follows is the doubled version as I know I won’t be making less than that.

You certainly may shape these into the traditional balls but I find that I greatly prefer a more patty-like shape as it is more pleasing to bit into, especially in a sandwich.

*You need to build in enough time for the chickpeas to soak at least 8 hours and for the processed mixture to rest at least half an hour before cooking*

INGREDIENTS
1 lb dried chickpeas, rinsed and picked over
4 qt water
3 TBSP kosher salt
Combine water and salt in a large container to dissolve the salt. Then add the dried chickpeas and let soak for at least 8 hours.

Most of a bunch of flat-leaf parsley washed and dried well. You can also use a mixture of cilantro and parsley
1 large onion
6 large cloves garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground coriander (or more to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp cayenne, chipotle, New Mexico chile powder, or to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Rinse and then drain the soaked chickpeas very, very well. I leave them to sit over the colander while I prep the rest of the ingredients
  2. If you want to save a bit of effort, wash and dry your herbs and then put them in the food processor bowl. Pulse until chopped. You can also finely chop by hand, but it seems silly to me not to let the food processor do the work. However, you will get a better result if you process the herbs first on their own before adding the rest of the ingredients
  3. Add the onion, garlic, salt and spices to the foood processsor and pulse a few times then add the well-drained chickpeas
  4. Pulse well until you’ve got a reasonably homogenous mixture. Test it by making a ball between your fingers. If it won’t hold together at all you should pulse some more. The end result looks kind of a like a paste and kind of like cooked couscous. When you’ve got the right texture,  scrape the mixture into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour. I’ve left it overnight with no issues
  5. When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and generously oil two half-sheet pans. Use an oil with a decent smoke point—olive oil is not your best choice here
  6. Remove the mixture from the fridge and form into balls or patties. I use my large cookie scoop for this and flatten the top a bit. Place the patties on the sheet pans. I got 27 patties about 2 inches across
  7. Bake for 15 minutes then turn the patties over and switch the positions of the baking trays. Bake for an additional ten minutes. They should be nicely browned on top and bottom
  8. Remove from oven and serve or cool and then tray freeze and bag up for future meals