It’s Not a Cracker, It’s Not a Chip — It’s a Papadum!
Posted Sep 25 2013 11:34am
Papadum with Cilantro Pesto & Grilled Onions
Last year, I had the pleasure of browsing through a Dean & DeLuca store in NYC. It was a multi-hour wander through a culinary treasure trove of fascinating curiosities. (The fact that I was in NYC for a culinary conference made the experience even better, because I could swap “did-you-taste-that?” stories with my colleagues.) One of the most intriguing things I found was a box of papadums. I had only seen them referenced a few times in Indian cookbooks, but the premise was fantastic: a wafer-thin disk of chickpea flour and water that could be slipped into a pan of hot ghee and made into an oversized crispy cracker/chip. It isn’t often that you find such a tasty gluten-free delicacy!
Once I had tried heating a few papadums at home, I got the trick of making them extra bubbled and crisp. Of course, by then the box was pretty much gone. And I’d never seen any on shelves in my local stores. (Although admittedly I didn’t check any Indian grocery stores; I’m sure they carry papadums.) I was going to order papadums online since I’d been canny enough to keep the box, but then other culinary curiosities intervened and I forgot about the magical papadums … until lately I stumbled across some in a Whole Foods store. How fabulous! Now papadums are back in my life. They’re great enjoyed alone, as a giant cracker/chip for dipping, or even broken up and used as croutons. Bet you’ll find them equally scrumptious and fun.
Papadum with Cilantro Pesto & Grilled Onions This batch of pesto makes enough for 2 people. Figure on 1 onion and 2 papadums per person if you’d like to make a light lunch out of this, or make as much as you’d like to serve as a party appetizer. Just keep the pesto proportions the same and double or triple them as needed.
For the onions
Sweet onions such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, sliced into 1/2″-thick rounds
For the pesto
4 cloves garlic, sliced into thin rounds
Bunch of fresh cilantro
Generous handful of sliced almonds
Dash of sea salt
For the papadums
Papadums (look for these in Indian grocery stores, Whole Foods stores, or Dean & DeLuca stores if you’re in NYC)
Ghee (which is clarified butter; many stores now carry this in the dairy case near the butter)
The onions can either be grilled or roasted. If you’re grilling them, try to keep the layers connected; if you’re roasting them, pull apart the layers so that you have rings rather than solid rounds. Either way, brush them with unrefined peanut oil before putting them on the grill or spreading them out on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Grill until browned on both sides, carefully flipping with a tong to keep the layers together (if they separate into rings, they’ll probably fall through the grill rack), or bake at 375F for 20 minutes or until the onions are deeply browned.
For the pesto, sauté the garlic in extra-virgin olive oil over medium-low heat for 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant and just starting to turn golden brown. Immediately transfer to a food processor. Rinse cilantro well, then cut off the bottom root portion and discard any wilted leaves/stems. Rinse again and whack the bunch against the side of your sink to get it mostly dry. Add to the food processor. Scatter in the almonds and salt and process until mostly blended. Stop, scrape down the sides, and add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Process until you have a mostly smooth pesto, adding more oil if necessary. Taste to see if you’d like to add another pinch of salt. Scoop into a bowl and set aside.
To make the papadums, melt a dab of ghee in a small crepe pan (about 6″ across) over medium heat. Slide a single papadum into the hot ghee. With tongs, push it around so that the side touching the pan is fully buttered (ghee-ed?), then flip it over. As it heats, the papadum will go from somewhat opaque to a lighter, solid color, and it will puff.
I’ve found that the best way to get a golden-brown, puffed papadum is to press the papadum against the pan with the tongs, moving to a new unpuffed spot as soon as the one you’re gently pressing puffs. (It’s the inverse of playing whack-a-mole — when you press with the tongs, the papadum puffs upwards.)
Flip the papadum and repeat with the second side, then lift from the pan with the tongs and let the ghee run off the papadum back into the pan for a few seconds. If you’re going to make a second papadum, you can use the same ghee, although you might need to notch back the heat slightly since the ghee will be hotter at that point.
Serve the puffed papadum with the cilantro pesto and grilled/roasted onions. So simple! And so fantastically crunchy.