Kotlet are meat and potato patties seasoned with onions and spices and pan fried until browned and crisp. They can be round or oval shaped, fat or thin, small as a silver dollar or as large as your hand. They can be eaten for any meal, or as a snack. Generally, they’re served simply with crunchy vegetables and fresh herbs, or made into sandwiches.
My mother likes folding kotlet into flatbread along with a few sprigs of parsley or basil, a slice of tomato and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. They’re good hot, warm or at room temperature, making them an ideal meal for road trips and picnics.
There are many ways to make them. Some people boil potatoes and mash them with the ground meat; others roast the potatoes before grating them. Some recipes call for battering or breading each patty before frying them. In my version, I parcook the potatoes in the microwave, because it takes less time than either boiling or roasting. While that’s happening, I mix together ground beef, grated onion, minced garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and black pepper. When the potatoes are halfway done and cool enough to handle, I grate them on the large holes of a box grater right into the bowl with the meat mixture, discarding the potato peels as I go. Then, I knead in a couple of eggs, making sure everything is well-mixed and a little sticky.
This can be done a few hours or a day in advance. When you’re ready to fry, heat some oil in a large, deep-sided skillet. I know the oil is hot enough when a pinch of the kotlet mixture sizzles on contact. I like to shape the kotlet like their cognate, into palm-sized oval cutlets. I drop each into the oil and adjust the heat to maintain an even temperature. After a few minutes, I’ll carefully flip each one and cook it until it’s deep golden brown on both sides. Then, it gets transferred to a towel-lined plate to drain slightly. I find it impossible to resist a taste of the first kotlet, still piping hot. As the rest of the kotlet cook, I slice cucumbers and tomatoes, pluck handfuls of fresh parsley, basil and tarragon and quarter a lemon.
Once the kotlet have cooled a little, I pack the food into reusable containers, placing squares of lavash in with the kotlet to warm the bread up. It all goes into a basket or satchel with napkins, drinks and maybe something sweet for dessert. Then, I’ll head to a park to meet friends and unpack my spread on a big blanket. Or, if there’s a long drive ahead, I’ll have my mom’s favorite snack to serve when it’s time for lunch — and be ready to retell her stories and memories of Iran along the way.