Apparently, the Super Bowl is this weekend and I’m not going to watch it. In all the years I’ve had this blog, I’ve feigned a small amount of interest in the annual sporting event. You know, just for the excuse to make chicken wings or some cooky take on a late-night favorite, but no more. I made these Shawarma Home Fries because they seemed like a good idea and they were so I’m sharing them with you now. Their appearance coinciding with the Super Bowl is purely incidental. I have never enjoyed football but it’s totally cool if you do and if you want to eat these Shawarma Home Fries while you watch the game, so much the better.
My First Drinking Buddy – The Shawarma
Oh! Shawarma, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. It may surprise you to know, that in spite of my Haligonian status, my first drunk food was the shawarma, not a donair. And honestly, we don’t all love donairs. We are well aware that the only appropriate setting for a donair is under the cover of night when you’re common sense abandoned you three tequila shots ago. But donair pizza? I don’t know why that delicacy doesn’t get a little more fanfare. But back to the shawarma.
Now, as much as I love me some chicken shawarma, I find the meat is secondary to the magic that is the shawarma toppings. I always get my shawarmas fully-loaded. I want every sauce and pickle-y bit that’s coming to me. That’s why, when I decided to try my hand at the shawarma, I figured I could make it vegetarian because I was mostly in it for the toum and the pickled turnip.
Is a Vegetarian Shawarma Still a Shawarma?
My first thought was to do a tofu version of shawarma but, to be honest, that felt a little lazy and I’ve been hitting the tofu pretty hard lately. Then I thought seitan. I know it’s a hot-button food item. Personally, I don’t have a problem with it. I just prefer to leave meat replacements out of my cooking because I think the root veg, beans, and legumes do a fantastic job of filling the meat void. If you like seitan, more power to you. Eat it if it makes you happy, but for me, potatoes will always be my number one vegan ingredient.
Shawarma Home Fries Are Born
With meat and meat replacements out, I started to question if I could in good conscience call anything I made a “shawarma” at all. In the many MANY YouTube videos I watched on the subject, the use of marinated meat seemed pretty central to the concept of the wrap. So, rather than trash the whole meatless shawarma concept completely, I decided to create a carb-tastic vehicle for all the toppings one would find tucked into shawarma. And, like that, these Shawarma Home Fries were born.
Now, Shawarma fries do already exist. I know, the Internet told me. It’s nearly impossible to have a fully-original food idea, so forgive my lack of innovation. Also, before someone loses it in the comment section, the use of the term “home fries” may offend some because these home fries are roasted in the oven. And according to Wikipedia – the lord and master of us all – that does not a home fry make.
Wikipedia claims that any fry that falls under the “home” umbrella must be fried in a pan. But I didn’t do that, so I guess these aren’t home fries. But they sure do look like home fries and, to be honest, I’ve had plenty of “home fries” that have totally seen the inside of a deep fryer. And if a home fry can find it’s way into a deep fryer, why can’t it find it’s way into my oven? I’m not sure why I’m so defensive about this. You probably don’t care in the least and wish I would let you vicariously carb-load in peace.
Anyway, for the sake of extra crispiness without the pitfalls of fry oil sogginess, I deployed Serious Eats‘ method for getting the crispiest oven-roasted fries. I made a few slight alterations to make them “shawarma-like”. But for the idea of parboiling the potatoes in a cocktail of boiling water, salt and baking soda alone, they deserve a serious shot out.
Toum – The Gift that Keeps on Giving
With the potatoes figured, it was time to contemplate the toppings. Toum -or that delicious garlic sauce they put on shawarma – was an absolute must-have. The recipe below with make a boatload of toum but don’t worry about it. You’ll eat it, I swear. You’ll find yourself spreading it on and stirring it into all sorts of things. My pal Suzie (from Just Crumbs) told me she puts the stuff in her grilled cheese. Honestly, toum is mostly garlic and where doesn’t garlic belong?
The Magic of Overnight Slaw
The red cabbage slaw is a simple stir-up affair. It’s really just cabbage, white onion, olive oil, lemon juice, za’atar and a little bit of honey. The magic of it comes from time. Yes, through no effort on your part, this fibrous, bland tangle of cabbage becomes a tender, flavorful slaw. You just have to plan ahead a little and give it time to come into its own in the fridge overnight. Oh, and as with the toum, the recipe below makes a ton. But this slaw keeps extremely well in the fridge and it’s beyond delicious on top of everything. We put it in a series of sandwiches and ever since we finished it our sandwiches have suffered in its absence.
So, that’s everything you need to know about these Shawarma Home Fries. Keep them on hand while you watch the big game or don’t. They will positively knock your socks off no matter the context.
Shawarma Home Fries with Toum and Red Cabbage Slaw
- 3 heads garlic cloves separated and peeled
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 ½ cups neutral oil I used canola
- ½ cup lemon juice
Red Cabbage Slaw
- 1/2 head red cabbage core removed, thinly sliced with a mandoline
- ½ white onion thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 ½ lemons juiced
- 2 tsp za'atar
- 1 tsp honey
- ¾ tsp salt
Shawarma Home Fries
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp salt divided
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1.4 kg (3 lbs) Mixed baby gem potatoes** scrubbed and halved
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp Aleppo pepper or chili powder
- ¾ tsp sumac
- ¾ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp turbinado sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ¼-½ tsp cayenne
- ¼ tsp ground cardamon
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 1 batch Red Cabbage Slaw see above
- 1 cup Zima tomatoes halved
- 2 cucumbers cut into thin ribbons
- ¼ white onion thinly sliced
- 2-3 dill pickles cut into spears
- ¼-½ cup pickled turnip drained
- ¼ cup curly parsley finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh mint finely chopped
- 1 batch Toum see above
- 4 Lebanese pitas quartered
For the Toum
- Cut the garlic cloves in half and remove any green cores if they have them. Transfer the cloves to a food processor and add the salt. Blitz until a smooth paste forms, stopping to scrape down the sides often.
- Add 2 tbsp of the oil and blitz again. Stop and scrape down the sides. Add 2 more tbsp of the oil and blitz again. Again, scrape down the sides.
- Turn the food processor on low and slowly stream in about a fifth of the lemon juice, followed by a fifth of the remaining oil. Continue to alternate between the oil and lemon juice until both are gone. At this point, the mixture should appear smooth, silky and glossy.
- Transfer the finished toum to a bowl, cover with paper towel and place in the fridge. Let chill completely before wrapping tightly. If you wrap the toum straight away the mixture could separate. The chilling will stabilize the emulsion, and the paper towel won't capture moisture. Toum will keep for up to four weeks in the fridge.
For the Red Cabbage Slaw
- Place the cabbage and onion in a large bowl and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine the olive oil, lemon juice, za'atar, honey, and salt. Pour the mixture over the cabbage and onion and toss to coat.
- Cover the bowl tightly and transfer to the fridge. Leave to marinate overnight or for a minimum of 3 hours.
For the Shawarma Fries
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tbsp of the salt and the baking soda. Pour in the potatoes and let cook until just fork-tender, about 7-10 minutes.
- While the potatoes are cooking, place the cumin seeds in a dry skillet and toast over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the garlic and oil and heat until the oil is bubbling. Stir the spices, excluding the salt, into the oil and cook until the garlic is quite fragrant, about 2 minutes. Strain the oil using a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids. Set the oil aside.
- Drain the potatoes and place them in a large bowl. Add the flavored oil, the remaining salt, and the lemon juice. Toss the potatoes aggressively. You want to rough up the flesh a bit for maximum crispiness.
- Spread the potatoes out evenly across the two baking sheets. Pop the sheets in the oven and let roast, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. Toss the potatoes with a spatula and return them to the oven. Roast for another 15-20 minutes more or until deeply golden.
- Divide the potatoes amongst four bowls and top each with a spoonful of the slaw and as many of the toppings as you wish. Finish with a sprinkling of parsley and fresh mint. Serve the Shawarma Home Fries immediately with pita and toum on the side for dipping.