French fries have over the last half century become a low-end fast food, relegated to a back of the bus role in our meals and have very little respect in the culinary world. I’d like to offer you a version that lifts the humble fried spud out of the gutter and gives it street cred, placing it firmly in the company of respectable “ethnic” fair. While the argument will always rage over whether it was the French or the Belgians who created the french frie or Pomme Frite , I’m going to say French for no other reason than they are mentioned in the name.
There are many things that can accompany the basic french fried potato, Americans usually use Ketchup, Canadians like gravy, in Britain it’s vinegar, many parts of Europe use mayonnaise and since I’m going French with this recipe, I’ve chosen to use the more upscale version of mayonnaise, aïoli (eye-YO-lee). Sometimes called the “butter of Provence” aïoli is a traditionally garlic-flavored sauce and is an emulsion much like mayonnaise. Made from crushed cloves of garlic, egg yolks, oil, and seasoning. It’s generally served as a sauce for a variety of garnishes and main courses throughout the world. Aïoli is believed to have originated in the Provence region of France and unlike other parts of that country the landscape of the area is not suited for dairy farming. As a result butter is not a common ingredient in the food of this region and aïoli is used instead.
We are going to follow the classic double frying method here, this adds time to the process but is worth it. In double frying the potato pieces are given one bath at a low temperature until limp or cooked through, then are allowed to rest before being fried a second time at a higher temperature until uniformly browned and crisp.
We’re going to cook our fries in duck fat, why would we do this? Well, as it turns out duck fat is really the superstar of oils when it comes to cooking and has been a staple in fine French cuisine for a very long time. Even today it is found in the kitchens of the worlds best chefs. Duck fat is healthier that many other fats and oils. It’s also very flavorful, possessing a high smoke point and can be used where high temperatures are needed. Finally, it has the advantage of being recyclable. So you don’t have to throw it out after being used like one must with butter or olive oil.
This recipe calls for raw egg and while it’s safe for healthy adults to consume raw eggs, the elderly, pregnant women, or those with a compromised immune system should not do so. I’m afraid that egg substitute will not work in this case.
Roasted Garlic Aïoli
Makes 2 cups
1 large head of garlic
2 tablespoons regular olive oil (extra virgin can make it bitter but may be used)
2 egg yolks
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1-1/2 cups regular olive oil
- Pre-heat the oven to 300°F.
- Cut a thin slice off the very top of the head of garlic to expose the tops of all the cloves.
- Set the garlic head in a shallow baking dish, pour the 2 tbsp of oil slowly over and into the head and season with salt and pepper.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 1-3/4 hours, until the garlic is very soft and tender. Don’t rush it; older garlic may take longer.
- Save the oil, setting it and the garlic aside.
- When it cools, squeeze the pulp out of the roasted garlic and into a food processor or blender.(a hand blender in a blending cup works well also)
- Now add the egg yolks, crushed garlic, lemon juice, water, salt, and cayenne pepper. Purée until smooth.
- With the motor running, add the left over oil from roasting and the additional 1-1/2 cups in a slow, steady stream continuing to process until emulsified and looking thick and creamy.
For the fries
What you’ll need:
- A deep-frying/candy thermometer
- X number of russet potatoes (russets are less waxy and work well for fries)
- 2- 3 cups of Duck fat (check local markets you should be able to find it. In Calgary Second to None Meats carries it)
- Truffle salt (Check spice and gourmet stores or online)
- More time than you might think. (if you want a far less time-consuming method check this one out)
Again, we are going to follow the classic double frying method when making these fries.
- Cut the potatoes into sticks ¼ inch wide. It’s important not to cut them too thin or they might become flimsy and break during the frying process or over cook.
- Soak the cut fries in ice water for about 30 minutes and rinse them with cold water a couple of times until you see no cloudiness in the water. This step removes much of the starch from the potato, making the fries less sticky when frying. It also removes sugars thus keeping them from prematurely browning while being cooked.
- Place the container(s) of duck fat into a saucepan filled with warm water. Warm it over medium heat and watch it closely. Remove the containers when the fat has liquefied.
- Pour the fat into a deep, heavy bottomed skillet or saucepan. ( a cast iron frying pan works great.) Heat the fat on medium-high until it reaches a temperature of about 325°F.
- Pat the soaked fries dry with a paper towel before frying. This will keep the fat from splattering.
- Divide the fries into batches of no more than 1 cup each. Don’t fry more than one batch at a time.
- Just before you place your first batch into the pan turn the heat to high. Once the fries are all in, reduce to medium. and monitor with the thermometer.
- Fry each batch for about 10 minutes (they should be very lightly brown), remove and place on paper towel. They will be soft so be careful when handling them.
- Bring the fat to 375°F. Carefully place the fries back in the fat and cook until they are brown and crispy–just a few minutes should do it.
- Remove the finished fries and place on paper towel to remove excess oil.
- Sprinkle with truffle salt and some fresh ground and serve.
Fries can be placed on a cookie sheet and frozen after the first frying. If you want to make large batches just do this and keep frozen in large ziploc bags until ready to use.