No one knows who invented French fries, although most food experts agree that deep fried potato strips were almost certainly invented in Belgium or France. There is a popular internet meme about a Belgian journalist who allegedly documented the existence of fried potatoes in the Spanish Netherlands in 1680, but the original manuscript is elusive.
Regardless of who invented fried potatoes, the French definitely have the most knife cuts for them, five total, ranging in size from the one millimeter to one centimeter, and those are just the stick shapes. We prefer the one centimeter pont neuf cut (approximately 3/8" thick) for these new perfect French fries we've created. The size holds up well using our method: blanch, smash and fry again.
The classic French and Belgian method for fries calls for double-frying, and is the method taught in culinary schools all over the world, alongside numerous newer techniques: starting the fries in cold oil, triple-cooking, freezing par-cooked fries, starch infused fries, pectinase soaked fries, and even ultra-sonic fries. All of these methods involve rinsing off surface starch and dehydrating the cut fries for crispy fries. Some incorporate techniques to make the surface more porous for extra-crispy fries.
There are many debates about the appropriate types of fat. Jeffrey Steingarten created an internet sensation with his preference for horse fat fries.
According to Harold McGee:
The general flavor of horse may also be different enough from beef and pork to add something unusual and enriching to the fried flavor. As for the texture of the fries: horse fat isn't so different from other animal fats as to do something different to the structure of the fried potato, either crust or interior. So I think horse-fat fries come out well because the people doing the cooking in horse fat are clearly obsessives and making sure they do the best they can with this rare ingredient!
Growing up in France, we saw plenty of horse meat butcher shops (boucheries chevalines), but never observed potatoes, or anything else for that matter, being cooked in horse fat. The only thing really missing by not using horse fat is the flavor of horse, which actually tastes a lot like beef. Besides, we prefer animal fats for sautéed potatoes. For deep frying we use vegetable or peanut oil.
Sunflower oil is the most commonly used fat for fries in France. If you like your fries extra crispy with lots of crunchy bits, you might try this recipe.
The New Perfect French Fry
From: Chef Farid Zadi, Dean of Cuisine, Ecole de Cuisine Los Angeles
Makes: 4 servings
4 medium sized russet potatoes
Salt to taste
Vegetable or peanut oil
1. Wash, peel and slice potatoes into 3/8" sticks. Place cut potatoes in a large bowl and cover with water. This removes surface starch and prevents discoloration.
2. Fill a large pot with approximately 4" of oil, heat it to 240F.
3. Drain the potatoes and pat dry to remove excess moisture. Carefully place all the potatoes in the oil and blanch until the fries are completely cooked, they should be soft and limp with a slightly disintegrated surface, but with no color, approximately 10 minutes.
4. Remove fries from oil with a slotted metal spoon or spider into a paper towel lined colander, pat off excess oil with additional paper towels. Place potatoes on a paper towel lined baking sheet and let cool at room temperature for at least thirty minutes.
5. Gently toss blanched fries with tongs to roughen the surface of the potatoes, don't be afraid of a few tears and broken pieces here and there. Tears and unevenly broken ends will fry up like shatteringly crisp potato chips.
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6. Heat oil to 330F, add all the fries and cook for approximately 5-10 minutes or until they are as golden brown and as crunchy as you like them.
In France and Belgium, fries are served with mayonnaise. The French sometimes liven things up a bit with harissa mayonnaise or aioli. We like ours sprinkled with a mixture of very finely minced garlic, flat leaf parsley, and grated parmesan cheese or dipped into sriracha mayonnaise. Test kitchen assistant, Patricia Escusa, is partial to sriracha ketchup.
Notes: All great recipes for crispy fries involve dehydrating the potatoes. Dehydrating potatoes can be as simple as air drying or freezing blanched fries, chefs also use convection oven fans or vacuum chambers. Joel Robuchon's cold oil fry method essentially draws out moisture from the fries by extending cooking time. This brings us to something that will produce even crispier fries: at a certain point during the long slow blanch, as the oil rises to deep frying temperature, the potatoes will have cooked to the point where the surface starts to disintegrate a little bit. This uneven surface results in extra-crunchy fries. Heston Blumenthal's triple-cooked method adds a third step, " pre-boiling in water until the potato is [sic] all but falling apart", which creates even more fissures in the potatoes than the cold oil method does. The mother of all fissure producing methods creates thousands of fissures on the potato's surface with an ultrasound. We assume that the vast majority of readers don't have convection ovens, vacuum chambers, ultrasounds, or mammal fats at home. So, our test kitchen created a french fry recipe that sufficiently dehydrates potatoes and creates an uneven, porous surface for extra-crunchy fries.