Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Reunited And It Feels So Good
On January 1, 2009 I ate French fries. This may not seem extraordinary to you, but to me it was like Christmas all over again. You see these were the first fries to cross my lips in nearly five months.
After thinking I might have a heart problem, I decided to quit eating fries for the rest of the year. That day was August 15, 2008. A few months later when I learned I had the cholesterol of a koala, I decided to keep my promise just to see if I could do it.
It was not easy, because I absolutely love fries! I feel that a hot fry is divine. A warm fry is still pretty darn good. A luke-warm fry can be overlooked, as long as there is plenty of ketchup. But a cold fry is a disgrace. And I forced myself to do without any of them for what seemed like an eternity. I mean I could eat fries every day of the week. On several occasions I actually have. But despite the pain and a few near misses, I succeeded in my goal to finish the year fry free. But now the year had been over for nearly 13 hours and I wanted my fries.
Because these were to be very special fries I had to choose them carefully. I couldn’t risk some hung-over fry cook half-assing my French fries. I needed a name I could trust. That name was McDonald, Ronald McDonald.
McDonald’s fries are hot, crispy on the outside and soft in the inside; the three requirements for any French-fry to be worthy of time in your mouth. For those of you who are rolling your eyes in disagreement, I have two words: Shut It.
McDonald’s fries are not the best fries I’ve ever had, that honor belongs to Fergburger in Qweenstown, New Zealand. Nor are they the best fries for sopping up Heinz ketchup (anything else is just a waste of tomatoes), that is what one does with Bojangles’ season fries that are salty enough to give a dolphin high blood pressure. And fries cooked in the ever so trendy duck fat have no equal when it comes to richness. However, McDonald’s fries are the most consistent on the market.
Even some of my favorite fry makers have off days. When I eat fries that are a bit overdone or the oil in the fryer is a couple of uses too old, it leaves me feeling a little cheated at the end of my meal. Not Ronald. His fries are always perfect and I knew my risk of disappointment was nil. One can’t be sure the sun will rise in the morning, but one can sleep well knowing McDonald’s fries will taste the same as they did the last time, every time.
My recent obsession with French fries led me to attempt to learn of their origins. After hours of research I know only one thing: people everywhere like them.
While France, Belgium and even Spain like to lay claim to the fried potato, it is Thomas Jefferson who gets the credit for popularizing the fry in the US. After returning from a stint as the Minister of France in 1789, the US President-to-be brought back a recipe for his chefs called “potatoes fried in the French manner.” But even this is a mystery as it is debunked by several fry researchers (dare call them, “fry-sci’s?”).
Cooking French Fries seems simple enough: cut potatoes, drop in oil, salt and eat. And truthfully, that’s all there really is to it. But if that’s true, why then do all French fries taste differently? And to that I say... I haven’t the slightest idea.
Whether you call them chips, papas fritas, pommes, frytki or картофель фри, here’s a method to make great fried potatoes every time.
Heat oven to 200.
Heat oil in fryer or pot to 325. (True bad-asses use horse fat).
Slice an old Russet potato into wedges or fries. (Older potatoes have less moisture resulting in a lighter and fluffier fry).
Place fries in a bowl of ice water while cutting remaining potatoes.
Drain fries and dry off extra water with paper towels. (Water breaks down cooking oil making burning more likely).
Add fries to hot oil in batches. Adding too many at once will drastically lower the oil temperature and leave you with a greasy, soggy mess.
Cook fries for until tender and barely golden, about 4-5 min.
Remove fries from oil and drain on a rack or paper.
Cook remaining batches.
After final batch is removed from the oil, increase the temperature to 375-385. Once at temperature, add fries, again in batches, and cook until golden-brown and crispy, about 2-3 min.
Remove from oil, salt and place on rack in 200-degree oven to hold until ready to serve.