Potato chop isn't something I grew up eating; in fact, the first time I tried one was a few months ago in an Assyrian restaurant, at the behest of some of my readers who were totally shocked to learn that potato chop wasn't even on my radar. When you're cooking food in a diaspora, you mostly experience the food your family knows how to make, with occasional encounters with unfamiliar foods through relatives and restaurants. Potato chop happened to be something my family didn't make, and so—in a total whirlwind of potatoes, parsley, and ground meat (ew, just don't picture it literally)—I learned about it, tried it, and then figured out how to make it, all in a matter of a couple months.
But I use the phrase "learned about it" loosely, because I've actually had a hard time researching the history of the dish. It is remarkably similar to an Indian dish of the same name, and I would be surprised if it didn't make its way to Iraq by way of India. There's a lot of overlap between Indian and Middle Eastern food, with a particularly strong connection between Iraq and India (take amba and biryani, for example).
But—assuming Iraqi and Indian potato chop come from the same origin—the two dishes have each developed some subtle differences, most notably the particular spices chosen and the heaps of parsley in most Iraqi versions (I call for equal parts parsley and cilantro, but you could use all of one or the other). My recipe's filling is a souped-up burek filling with some familiar spices, parsley, and cilantro. For my potato crust, I use a little more corn starch than most recipes call for, which might seem like a lame filler, but I think it gives the potatoes a more consistent texture, and helps them hold together in deep frying. Perhaps it's a shortcut, but it's one that really does its job. If you become a potato chop pro, you can gradually scale back the amount of corn starch as you become better at shaping the patties.
More potato chop recipes
2 pounds 12 ounces potatoes (about 5 medium-large russet potatoes)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon corn starch
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Peel and dock the potatoes with a fork, and then microwave until they're cooked through completely (about 15 minutes in my microwave).
Mash them very well with a potato masher until there are no more lumps (if there are any stubborn lumps, microwave them for a couple more minutes).
Set aside to cool. Once the mashed potatoes are no longer hot, add the corn starch and salt, and mix together for about 1 minute, until it forms a dough.
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup minced onion (from 1/2 of 1 large or 1 medium onion)
3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
3 cloves garlic, crushed with a garlic press
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika *
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
9 to 10 ounces lean ground beef
3 tablespoons minced parsley
3 tablespoons minced cilantro
While the potatoes are cooking (or after), heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring every minute or so, until they brown slightly and soften, about 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low, add the salt, garlic, paprika, allspice, cumin, coriander, and black pepper, and give everything a stir. Immediately add the ground beef, then turn the heat to high, and mix everything together, breaking up any big clumps.
Keep stirring until any juices have evaporated and the meat has browned, about 5 minutes.
Remove the meat from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Once it's cool enough, add the parsley and cilantro and stir to combine.
* You knowww, if you mixed up a batch of my baharat, you could just use that instead of this blend of spices.
Filling and potato dough
3 cups oil for deep frying
2 beaten eggs, seasoned with a pinch of salt
About 1 cup breadcrumbs (either homemade or store-bought)
Take a handful of potato dough (just under 1/4 cup) and flatten it out in the palm of your hand, until it's about 1/4 inch thick. Add about 2 tablespoons of the meat to the center of the flattened potato dough, and gently fold the sides up, molding it into a ball around the meat. It will be much more fragile than a wheat dough, but once you squeeze everything together, it should hold together. Carefully flatten the ball by cupping it in your hands, also putting pressure on the sides as you press it into a disc. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients, pacing yourself as you go to make sure you don't have anything left over at the end.
Heat the oil in a frying pan with deep sides, until it's 350° F. Make sure your pan is big enough that it won't bubble over.
While you're waiting on the oil to heat, bread the potato chops: Drop one of the potato chops into the eggwash and flip it to coat both sides. Drop the coated potato chop in the breadcrumbs, flipping it and making sure the whole thing is well-covered. Continue with the rest of the potato chops and let them rest for about 5 minutes on a sheet pan before deep frying.
Once the oil has heated, carefully add about 4 potato chops (or enough to cover the bottom of the pan with some space between them). They should be covered by oil at least halfway up their sides, most likely completely submerged. Let them cook for about 3 minutes on one side, and then carefully flip and cook for 1 more minute (if they are only partially submerged, you may need to cook the second side a minute longer).
Remove to a paper towel lined plate and serve immediately. If you're not serving them immediately, you can keep them in a warm oven for about an hour, or you could refrigerate them for a couple days, and then toast them in a toaster oven to reheat.