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Frozen fries, the final showdown


Fat Guy
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(Steingarten wrote about it but Joel Robuchon is responsible for the method)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Interesting.  Do they not soak up a lot of oil as they come to temperature?  What sort of potatoes are you using - baking or boiling?  This sounds so wrong that if I had potatoes in the house I would just have to try it!   :shock: But it obviously works for you!  Thanks for sharing.

I've used standard waxy/firm potatoes (of the Swedish variety). As for the soaking up oil thing, I don't have a lot to compare with but I haven't got the impression that they are very greasy. The outer surface have been dry and crispy.

Edited by TheSwede (log)
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The "Steingarten Method" actually is used/was used by Baghdadi Jews in Calcutta to make their signature potatoes, aloo m'kallah: whole blanched potatoes, smallish round ones, not larger than a golf ball or just a bit larger, started in cold oil and brought up to a 'high' simmer, kept there until deep golden. These were served with their special "roast chicken." Deliciously crunchy almost throughout, only a small, soft core remained.

I have a huge problem with the late Copeland Marks's Calcutta cookery, having meticulously gone through the recipes and tasted the results. Having tasted the originals and lived among the very people, including the some of the specific persons named, I do understand some of the cooking involved, and what the food should taste like, be it Jewish or Anglo-Indian, Bengali, whatever. Since the man is dead, I shall avoid comment on his self-asserted expertise on various aspects of Calcutta cookery, Jewish and non-Jewish, as well as on the quality of the recipes.

One South Indian gentleman, I believe, opening a kosher restaurant in NYC, got Mr. Marks to advise him on these same aloo m'kallah and probably prepares them to this day, with what felicity, who can say.

I do know several Jewish emigrants from Calcutta, who moved to London in the 70s, and who I can attest were absolute experts in this art. There are many variables, the variety of potato being one-- perhaps small Yukon golds would be a place to start.

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I can't be the only person who does this:

Stand in front of the freezer section of the health food store, gazing longingly at frozen fries, and trying not to acknowledge the bag of organic spuds at 1/4 of the price, in my shopping trolley?

I don't know why but for some reason I just get stuck right there.

I'd love to use frozen chips but for some reason my lapsed catholic guilt kicks in upon my tree huggin' soul over this exact issue.

You think it's just the taters working the Irish in me?

“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”
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(Steingarten wrote about it but Joel Robuchon is responsible for the method)

Yes, it's on p. 411 of the paperback version of The Man Who Ate Everything.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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  • 1 month later...

Question: I am planning a lunch for 35 during a fantasy baseball draft held at our house. It's been requested that I serve Chicago style dogs, brats and french fries + whatever. I'm trying to figure out the best method for frying that many fries.

Originally, I thought I would make my own fries, but the 'day of' prep for that many people is daunting. However... has anyone ever sliced the fries, given them one dip in the oil, cooled and then froze(n) the fries? I would plan to freeze the fries on cookie sheets (individually), and then bag and food save them. Would you be able to give them the 2nd fry before serving?

Further, if I used a batter dip on the fries how would they fry after freezing?

Conversely, would anyone know of outlets for good fries that I could buy frozen in the Chicago area? I'm looking for thin fries, something between a regular store bought fry but not as skinny as frites. Similar in size (dare I say it) to a McDonalds fry?

Any ideas are much appreciated!

Edited by nancypantzie (log)
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I haven't read the topic, but the best potato creation I've ever tasted is what my mother would make with leftover baked potatoes from the previous night.

After dinner the night before she would stick them in the fridge and let them cool overnight, then dice them, and shallow fry in a saute pan. Maybe it's just because I grew up on them, but they are still my favorite hands down. Layered with sharp cheddar, bacon, chives, with sour cream and scratch made ranch dressing. yes...I'm an American.

If I were cooking for a crowd, I would bake a whole bunch of russet potatoes the day before, cool them overnight, then dice/cube very small 3/4" and fry.

Edited by JoshRountree (log)
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If I were cooking for a crowd, I would bake a whole bunch of russet potatoes the day before, cool them overnight, then dice/cube very small 3/4" and fry.

Isn't this how breakfast diners make hashbrown taters?

Monterey Bay area

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If I were cooking for a crowd, I would bake a whole bunch of russet potatoes the day before, cool them overnight, then dice/cube very small 3/4" and fry.

Isn't this how breakfast diners make hashbrown taters?

Maybe. It seems like diner hashbrowns sometime have a mushy texture. Letting the baked potato sit overnight in the fridge seems like it keeps everything together. The outside is super crisp and the inside is fluffly. It may very well be just one of those things your mom cooked for you as a child and for one reason or another is better than anything else you've had.

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If I were cooking for a crowd, I would bake a whole bunch of russet potatoes the day before, cool them overnight, then dice/cube very small 3/4" and fry.

Isn't this how breakfast diners make hashbrown taters?

Maybe. It seems like diner hashbrowns sometime have a mushy texture. Letting the baked potato sit overnight in the fridge seems like it keeps everything together. The outside is super crisp and the inside is fluffly. It may very well be just one of those things your mom cooked for you as a child and for one reason or another is better than anything else you've had.

We do an even more rustic version -- cool the baked spuds overnight, slice 'em and fry 'em up in a hot pan with a mix of veg oil and butter. So tasty!

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  • 1 year later...

I suppose because it's been hinted (but not proven) that Keller uses the Sysco fries.

Well, I will have to find it, but I have a photo somewhere of the freezer at bouchon and the fries are sysco "private reserve". I did a week stage down there and Snapped a photo for a coworker of mine.

They also, after frying will place the fries in a large bowl (very large food service size) with a kitchen towel taped on all 4 sides, suspended inside the bowl to wick away the fat, they are also salted while this process is happening, cause the salt wont stick very well after the excess oil is gone.

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It is too bad that Chef Keller uses frozen fries, even top quality frozen fries.

McDonald's owners had the same consistency complaint, along with labor cost/intensity, about starting from scratch. Back in the 60's McDonald's restaurants were constructed with basements to provide sufficient space to age bags of potatoes. The conversion to frozen was emotional for all involved. The final ok came from Ray Kroc when he declared he could not tell a frozen McD fry from fresh. We in the R&D lab could, but it was close.

But McDonald's is McDonald's and a Keller restaurant is anything but. I expect Keller's goal to be "best possible" rather than consistent. A top quality frozen fry can be very good. But it will not be as good as a fresh cut fry that is properly prepared. Maybe my expectations are too high. I would hope that any chef the level of Chef Keller would choose not to serve a product if he is not confident using fresh product.

The issue for restaurants is that fresh cut fries, along with being labor intensive, have to be finished fried to order. They start to deteriorate a minute or two out of the fryer. If the kitchen only has typical fry baskets for the finish fry and cook full baskets of blanched fries, the fries going to the customer will not be consistent. Those fries fresh out of the fryer will be excellent. Those from the same basket, a few minutes later, will be less so and possibly worse than a quality frozen fry held for the same time.

Most restaurants don't have the capability to finish fries to order - especially during a busy meal period. That is what makes true Belgian Frites so good. They are almost always finish fried to order.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I expect Keller's goal to be "best possible" rather than consistent.

But what if the "best possible" is sometimes less then the frozen fry? I think you underestimate consistency. A great restaurant has to have really great food everytime; I think if it only good-ish 10% of the time, it would not be good enough. Now sure, I know that is the argument of every McDonalds wannabe, but I suspect Mr. Keller is arguing that really, sometimes the potatoes you get will not allow you to exceed frozen fries (and in fact fall short of it).

That said, I have a hard time buying it. All materials have variance and I'd think the skill of his staff should be able to overcome. I am almost inspired to try to track down some really great frozen fries now, though. Unfortunately all your nice recommendations mean nothing up here north of the border.

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But what if the "best possible" is sometimes less then the frozen fry? I think you underestimate consistency. A great restaurant has to have really great food everytime; I think if it only good-ish 10% of the time, it would not be good enough. Now sure, I know that is the argument of every McDonalds wannabe, but I suspect Mr. Keller is arguing that really, sometimes the potatoes you get will not allow you to exceed frozen fries (and in fact fall short of it).

If the potatoes are not up to required standards, a top quality restaurant should not serve french fries.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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>>If the potatoes are not up to required standards, a top quality restaurant should not serve french fries<<

They harvest the potatoes at the peak of season. To me freezing is just another method of preservation, nothing wrong with that.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/09/20/FD17707.DTL

I am struggling a lot with french fries at home, if I recall correct Mr Blumenthal was measuring sugar and starch content. I noted that "aged" russet potatoes work better to me. I just tried double frying but will do triple next, I just don't think his recipe works for thinner fries - I don't want mine to be half inch thick.

JK

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Fortunately American cuisine has evolved to local sourced and fresh.

The article cited above from the San Francisco Examiner says it all about Bouchon's rationale for going frozen:

But making fries from scratch doesn't work for Bouchon. ``We'd have to employ someone full time just to do fries,'' says Jeff Cerciello, executive chef at Bouchon, the wine country restaurant that serves some of the best fries around. And in the tight labor market, that's just not feasible, he says. For the huge demand for fries at Bouchon, where more than 150 pounds hit the tables each day, Cerciello relies on a frozen product called Private Reserve made by Lamb Weston.

It is a business decision. Of course Bouchon's menu romances "pommes frites" and not the source, "Lamb Weston Private Reserve."

I just Googled a picture of Bouchon's fries. They are cut shoe-string. So frozen is fine. Even from fresh, a restaurant can not do an exceptional shoe string french fry, much less a consistent one. No shoe string fry, frozen or fresh cut, will measure up to a well prepared 1/4" or 3/8" fresh cut, twice fried fry.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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do frozen fries have to be defrosted before you can deep fry them?

IIRC, the packages recommend frying while frozen.

I have always found frozen to be inferior in texture. This is magnified when they get cold. Cold fries, heated then allowed to get cold, from frozen are inedible. But, my fries made from fresh potatoes are still good if they get cold. They may not have the crispness on the outside, but, they are like any other room temperature potato dish. I recall being able to make an impromptu potato salad from some leftover fries once, and it was gooood.

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When judged by an expert panel (my three budding-foodie children), Ore-Ida Shoestrings, taken straight from the freezer, dropped into 375F corn oil spiked with a bit of bacon grease, and fried until just starting to turn past golden brown, have handily defeated all of my (many) attempts at fresh-cut homemade fries to date.

It hasn't been close, and honestly I agree with the judgment of the panel. I don't know what they do to those potatoes before they freeze them, but it works.

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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