Great falafel should be crisp on the outside and moist—but not pasty—on the inside. [Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt]
Falafel often has good flavor, but a pasty, heavy texture. What I’m after is falafel that’s shatteringly crisp on the outside and light, fluffy, almost crumbly on the inside, while still remaining very moist. Light enough that the balls can be eaten completely on their own without having to be shoved into a sandwich full of ingredients designed to distract you from their typical mushiness. (Of course, if you want them in a sandwich, they should hold up in there just as well.) I like my falafel to taste of chickpeas, but also to be packed with herb and spice flavor. Falafel that needs only simple condiments—tahini and hot sauce—to taste great.
Why It Works
- Using dried chickpeas eliminates the need for flour or other binders, giving you falafel that is light and crisp.
- Letting the falafel dough rest after grinding allows starch to seep out, making it easier for the balls to retain their shape.
- Making small balls gives you a better ratio of crisp exterior to moist interior.
- 1/2 pound dried chickpeas (1 generous cup; 225g)
- 2 ounces picked fresh cilantro, parsley, or mint leaves, or preferably a mixture of all three (about 2 cups; 55g)
- 6 scallions, white and pale green parts only, sliced (about 2 ounces; 55g)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons; 10ml)
- 1 teaspoon (about 4g) ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon (about 2g) ground coriander seed
- 2 teaspoons (about 10g) kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 2 to 3 cups (480 to 720ml) vegetable oil, for frying
- Tahini sauce, hummus, and/or zhug (Yemenite hot sauce) for serving
Rinse chickpeas and place in a large bowl. Cover with cold water, adding enough to allow the chickpeas to at least triple in volume. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. The next day, drain, rinse, and carefully dry chickpeas in a salad spinner.
Combine chickpeas, herbs, scallions, garlic, cumin, coriander, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until chickpeas are very finely minced, stopping the food processor to scrape down the sides as necessary. A handful of the mixture squeezed into a ball should be able to barely hold together. If not, process a little more.
Transfer mixture to a bowl, cover, and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes to allow time for more starch to seep out of chickpeas. This will help the balls retain their shape better once formed. Using a tablespoon measure, scoop out heaping spoonfuls of the mixture into your hand. Gently shape each into a ball (you will not be able to roll the mixture like cookie dough; this is okay) and place them on a clean plate.
When all the balls have been formed, fill a deep cast iron, carbon steel, or nonstick skillet or Dutch oven with 3/4 inch of oil. Heat over high heat until oil registers 375°F on an instant-read thermometer. Carefully lower chickpea balls into oil one at a time, allowing a little space between each ball and cooking in batches if necessary. Adjust heat as necessary to maintain a temperature of between 350 and 375°F. Allow to cook undisturbed until well browned on bottom sides, then carefully flip balls with a fork until browned on second side, about 4 minutes total. Transfer cooked chickpea balls to a paper towel–lined plate and season with salt. Repeat with remaining chickpea balls.
Serve immediately with tahini and/or hummus on the side, or stuffed into pita bread with tahini, tomatoes, cucumber, pickles, and shredded cabbage.
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