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Embattan – Libyan Fried Potatoes Stuffed With Beef

This is my take on a classic Libyan appetizer that is a favorite in any true Libyan heart – the embatna! There’s nothing quite like this anywhere in the world and once you have one bite, you won’t be able to stop. A potato sandwich stuffed with spiced beef, fried and baked to crisp perfection, then dipped in a tomato sauce pool!

I’ve seen and heard about a lot of different variations on how these are made but this is what works best for me after testing it out multiple times before sharing it with you all. It may not be the most traditional but I love making a recipe more personal with my own touches as well as tweaks I learn from the best cooks around, Libyan mothers.

In my house, I grew up only having these during Ramadan. We broke our fast on them a lot of times because what’s better than deep fried potatoes and beef on an empty stomach? The most special part about them was that we all helped my mom make them. She prepared the potatoes and meat filling while we assembled them together and fried them.

If it’s your first time making embattan, it can seem really intimidating at first but once you get the technique down, you’ll be popping out dozens with ease. If any of the potato sandwiches break open, just fry them as potato slices/wedges so not to waste any food.

Either way, it’s a flavor bomb in your mouth and if you have never tried Libyan food before, this is a great way to introduce your tastebuds to the delicious and unique cuisine.

Tips/Notes:

  • When picking out potatoes, try to stick to Russet as your first choice, second choice Yukon Gold. Other potatoes are too waxy or have a different starch to moisture content.
  • If you’re struggling to cut the potatoes to make the sandwich, try lining a chopstick along the potato so when you slice down, the knife gets in contact with the chopstick, stopping you from cutting all the way down.
  • Make sure to soak the sliced potatoes in very warm and salted water for about an hour. This helps them soften up just a bit so they’re less likely to break when you fill them.
  • Do not add the egg to the meat mixture until it has completely cooled to room temperature. Otherwise, you run the risk of cooking the egg. The egg works as a binder so the beef doesn’t crumble out of the potato.
  • When dredging the stuffed potatoes, try to keep one hand for dipping in the dry ingredients like the flour and your other hand for the wet egg wash. This will help prevent your hands from being covered in mushy dough.
  • Add seasoning to your flour, especially if you use traditional plain breadcrumbs over Italian breadcrumbs! I like to add a bit of salt, paprika, garlic, and black pepper. You can also add dried parsley, cilantro, mint, and any other spices you like.
  • If choosing to dip in tomato sauce, you can either buy your favorite from the store that’s already seasoned or make your own at home. I like to add some black pepper, ginger, oregano, and a little basil.
  • If you prefer to stuff these with raw meat and then cook, this recipe works just as well but it is not my preference.
  • Some other spices/ingredients that I add to the ground beef not included in the recipe:
    • Cayenne pepper if you want a bit of spiciness
    • Onion powder or you can add fresh onions too
    • Turmeric
    • Tomato paste
  • To the egg mixture:
    • You can add some turmeric if you’d like a more golden color to your embattan
    • You can also add some salt
  • Make sure to add your eggs for dipping into a shallow large bowl rather than a small. It makes it a lot easier to coat when the egg wash is not too deep.
  • If you like more crispy embattan, coat the whole thing in breadcrumbs.

Ingredients

4 large Russet potatoes
1 pound ground beef, 95/5
1 tablespoon olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice, optional
4 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for frying
tomato sauce (optional)

Instructions

1
Wash and peel skin off potatoes.
2
Slice the potato thin but do not cut all the way down, leaving about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch at the bottom unsliced. Then, make another slice right next to it but this time going all the way down. This is how you make the "potato sandwich." Repeat with the rest of the potatoes.
3
Once all the potatoes are sliced into the sandwiches, place them in a large bowl with salted warm water. This will help the potatoes soften up a bit.
4
While the potatoes soften, prepare the filling. Over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a pan.
5
Once the oil is hot, add the ground beef, garlic cloves, parsley, cilantro, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, ginger, salt, and black pepper. Using a wooden spoon, break apart the meat as it cooks to avoid clumping. It's done when it is no longer pink.
6
Allow the ground beef to cool. A shortcut to this is to pop it in the freezer and stir every 10 minutes until it's not steaming anymore. Once it's cooled, add 2 eggs to the mixture and stir to coat evenly.
7
Drain the water from the potatoes and pat dry. Stuff each potato with the ground beef filling.
8
Prepare three separate bowls for dredging the stuffed potatoes. To the first bowl, add 1 cup flour. In the second bowl, add 3-4 eggs and whisk together to form an egg wash. In the third bowl, add 1 cup of breadcrumbs.
9
First, coat the embattan in the flour and shake off any excess. Then, dip it in the egg wash, allowing any excess to drip off. Then, dip the meat side in the breadcrumbs mixture. Repeat for the rest and set on a baking sheet or parchment paper.
10
While frying, preheat oven to 400°F. Over medium-high heat, place a deep pan on the stove with enough vegetable oil to at least cover 1/4 of the embattan when dropped in. The oil will rise more as you add them in and you don't want them to be drowning in oil. Drop them in when the oil is hot enough that they sizzle right away.
11
Allow to get golden on each side before flipping over and taking out of the oil. Set them on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
12
Set up a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If you'd like, dip them in tomato sauce and place on the baking sheet. Otherwise, just place them on the baking sheet right away and pop in the oven to bake for 25 minutes minutes. They'll get a little more dark and crispier on the outside.
13
Serve and enjoy!

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