Jul 02, 2018

Let’s Talk About French Fries

By MaryAnn Miano

French Fries

Ah, July, a month we set aside to celebrate all things American like baseball, hot dogs, apple pie … and french fries. July 13 is National French Fry Day, and everyone knows Americans go freaky for french fries.

But wait, you say: french fries must actually be from France and are not at all American? Let’s dig into the history of these crunchy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, golden brown, salty melt-in-your mouth of the not-so-interesting potato, to understand how they became a cult favorite.

The first thing to learn is that french fries are not really from France. Their name is misleading. Their origins are from Belgium, where legend has it poor villagers living in Meuse Valley often ate small fried fish they caught in the river. During winter months, the river would freeze over, making fishing impossible and forcing villagers to find other sources of food. The villagers turned to the root plant, the potato, slicing and frying it much in the same way they prepared the fish.

It seems the Belgians were frying potatoes as early as 1650, and eventually, the French did indeed pick up on the Belgian trend. American soldiers stationed in Belgium were first introduced to french fries during World War I. As the official language of the Belgian army was French, soldiers nicknamed the delicious fried potatoes “French fries.”

The culinary term “frenching vegetables” means slivering and cutting a vegetable lengthwise into long, thin strips. Therefore, potatoes that are “frenched” and then fried are what we have come to call french fries.

There are many varieties to this classic food, and the taste sensation they provide with the condiment you choose, be it ketchup, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, honey mustard, or cheese, only adds to the addiction. French fries’ irresistible quality comes from the fact that they are deep-fried and salty, making their texture and taste most appealing.

What can be gained nutritionally from french fries? While they do have a high fat content (and if you purchase them from fast-food restaurants, they are also high in trans fats) which makes them calorie-laden, it’s not all bad news. They provide potassium, fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, and vitamin b6. Oven-baked “fried” potatoes will give you more of the nutrition and less of the fat, but alas, they are not quite as tasty as deeply fried, golden potatoes.

Even though french fries should be eaten in moderation, you have permission on National French Fry Day this July 13 to break out your deep fryer to indulge and try the following recipe!

RECIPE OF THE MONTH
FRENCH FRIED POTATOES

Use a deep fryer with frying basket or a heavy pot or Dutch oven along with a mesh strainer. Use a deep-fry thermometer to regulate the oil’s temperature to ensure a perfect French fry.

Use Russet potatoes, and be sure to soak them in cold water for about an hour to eliminate sugars and starch, which keeps the potatoes from sticking to each other.

Ingredients:

6 large Russet or baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3” thick strips

Oil for deep frying (peanut, vegetable, canola, or safflower)

Dash of salt to taste

Directions:

Soak cut potatoes in cold water for one hour. Drain well, and dry them thoroughly by patting with paper towels.

Heat the fat (oil) in the pot to 395 degrees F, or to 370 degrees F for a deep fryer. If using a deep fry basket, place potato strips in a single layer in the basket. Lower the basket into the oil and fry for about 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown and tender. Test a strip by pricking it with a fork to make sure the potatoes are done in the center.

Drain the potatoes on paper towels. Place them on baking sheets. Have a pre-heated 200 degrees oven ready to receive the fried potatoes to keep warm while frying the next batch.

Sprinkle fries with salt when done, and eat hot.

BONUS: Here is a recipe for baked “french fried” potatoes:

• Pare and cut lengthwise into strips six medium-sized Russet potatoes.

• Add 1/3 cup oil along with ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon onion powder, and ¼ teaspoon paprika OR coat the potatoes with the spice mixture and oil in a zip-close bag. NOTE: Adjust spices according to your taste; feel free to use more.

• Place them on a baking sheet; bake them in a preheated 400 degrees F oven until they are tender (about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the fries), turning once throughout the cooking time.