First copy of my new book of essays in from publisher for approval. Avail for ordering soon.
First copy of my new book of essays in from publisher for approval. Avail for ordering soon.
My first book will be published within the next month or so, and it is an anthology of my essays presented before the famed Chicago Literary Club in each of the 15 years I have been a member. Most of these were presented after club dinners at the aptly-named Cliff Dwellers Club, on the 22nd story, overlooking Grant Park and Lake Michigan.
The topics of the essays range widely: from fries, to Kenya, to Toyotas, to beacons, to Sam Johnson and James Boswell, to political colors, to spokesmanship, to changing office culture, to Belgium frikots to breakfast with Mr. McDonald, to name a few.
Below is my Introduction to APPLE PRESSINGS. Stay tuned for more, as publication approaches.
I came to think of these writings as the apple pressings of my mind.
In making apple cider, pressings are the remains of the crushed apples after the juice is squeezed out by a press. The essays herein were written at our Wisconsin retreat, Applewood Lodge, thus named because there are more than 200 apple trees of miscellaneous lineage spread across the property. They, or their antecedents, were likely planted by the owners of the fairly ancient house, now reduced to an overgrown foundation of large boulders, which once stood near the entrance,
Not long after Vicki and I acquired Applewood and built our weekend country house in 1989, I put together a traditional hand-operated wooden apple press, in hopes of teasing succulent fresh apple cider from the red, green and yellow apples adorning our trees every fall. Grinding the apples was sweat-busting work, thus the press has now been resting unused in our storage shed for some years.
Just as the pressings – also known as pomace or must – are what is left after the precious juice is squeezed from those hardy apples – these essays are the essence of what remains in the wake of travels, research and reflecting. The yield is these 15 essays, each completed annually between 2005 and 2019, under the auspices of the renowned and historic Chicago Literary Club, of which I’ve been a member over that time.
As for the back story of this compendium, I was invited to join the Literary Club by John Notz, a Lake Geneva friend who noted an article I’d written for a local newspaper about the winter mountain hut restaurants that Vicki and I ravenously visited in our ski trips to Arosa, Switzerland, from the late 1970’s through the early 2000’s. Each of the subsequent Literary Club essays here is also preceded by a short back story on why or how I came to think it worth writing.
I retired from a full-time career in public relations at the stroke of the Millennium, at the tender age of 56. I felt like a 16-year-old on summer vacation, but with a somewhat larger allowance. Yes, I have since been guilty of filling my time with an abundance of leisure activity, but I’ve also become active with several not-for-profit organizations, founded two university award programs in cause-related community relations, and done some travel and writing, much of it here, with the Literary Club.
My sweet wife of more than 40 years, Vicki, has served as my more-than-willing editor and grammatist, and our aptly-named cat, Cider, has often trod the keys in attempts to add his random edits. Each essay indicates the date presented before the Literary Club, and is reproduced as it was presented.
I hope you enjoy these sometimes-tasty, and always tart apple pressings, dried and ready for you to read, inside the covers of this non-edible volume. You might even consider it “must” reading. A glass of crisp apple cider might help them go down all the more smoothly. So, cheers, and enjoy!
Of the many ways to describe Chicago, a french fry paradise probably doesn’t spring to mind first. A city stuffed with extra-thick pizza and political corruption? Sure. But a Shangri-La of freshly cut potatoes bubbling in hot oil? Not exactly.
Perhaps you should reconsider.
While you can find great fries all over the country, the sad fact is that even when you discount most fast food chains, the majority of restaurants purchase frozen fries. It’s cheaper and easier to do so. But for some stubborn reason, Chicago is a city dedicated to fresh-cut french fries, the kind that start with actual potatoes punched through a fry cutter and then cooked twice in oil (first at a lower temperature, and then at a higher temperature). The fries that emerge from the oil sport crispier crusts and creamier insides than their frozen counterparts. Instead of tasting like oil, they capture pure potato flavor.
Restaurants at every price point and in all areas of the city serve fresh-cut fries, from fancy new West Loop spots to old-school hot dog stands. It’s so common, most people here don’t even realize how good we have it. That has to explain why most hot dog stands automatically toss in a bag of fries for free with every order.
So when someone suggested we find Chicago’s best french fries (yes, the word “french” is lowercase in this usage, more on that later), we were initially dumbstruck by the impossibility of the task. There were too many options! Our whole department would have to stuff ourselves on nothing but fries for the whole year to find the city’s best.
That’s when someone suggested a $5 price limit. Sure, it would exclude places like Hopleaf Bar and Boeufhaus, but what better way to prove Chicago’s french fry supremacy than to set such a low limit.
We figured if we worked hard, we could find 40 or maybe 50 restaurants serving fresh-cut fries under the price limit, with no chain restaurants and only regular fries (no waffle, steak, curly, etc). Hours later, the list had swelled to over a 100. (Pause for a moment to admire how incredible that number is.) These included options in both the city and suburbs, though we excluded national chains.
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We divvied up the 106 restaurants among Food & Dining reporters and editors (with help from other Tribune staffers) and got to eating. After the first round, in which participants decided thumbs up or down on each spot, we had narrowed the list to 28. For the second round, Louisa Chu and Nick Kindelsperger revisited those semi-finalists, selecting 20 we thought were worth celebrating. To declare a winner, we embarked on round three, revisiting our top eight picks in one potato-packed day.
Along the way, we debated what makes a great french fry. Is a crispy exterior always better, or can a heavy crust cover up the flavor of the potato? Should the interior have a texture similar to baked potatoes or mashed potatoes? Do you really need condiments?
We also uncovered another reason why many of Chicago’s fries taste so good: animal fat. In a 2001 New Yorker piece titled “The Trouble with Fries,” Malcolm Gladwell writes that although the original McDonald’s was located in California, Ray Kroc developed the most popular fries in human history thanks to a hot dog stand in Chicago. “Ray Kroc, in the early days of McDonald’s, was a fan of a hot-dog stand on the North Side of Chicago called Sam’s, which used what was then called the Chicago method of cooking fries. Sam’s cooked its fries in animal fat, and Kroc followed suit.”
While McDonald’s eventually stopped using beef tallow, many places in Chicago still continue the practice, and our fries are tastier as a result.
Finally, are french fries actually French? According to the “Food Lover’s Companion” by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst, “the name does not come from the fact that their origin is French, because the potatoes are ‘frenched’ — cut into lengthwise strips.” That explains why the french in french fries has not been capitalized for the entirety of this article. However, according to “The Oxford Companion to Food” by Alan Davidson, there’s a very real possibility that french fries may have first developed around Pont-Neuf in Paris in the late 18th century. But the book is quick to point out that many people disagree with this statement, and that the “Belgians are anxious to claim the honour of invention.” In other words, who knows? Still, even with an obnoxious dalliance with calling them freedom fries earlier in the century, the name has stuck.
While french fries definitely weren’t invented here, it’s our humble opinion that Chicago should finally get the attention as an epicenter of the french fry arts that it so rightly deserves. Here are 20 reasons why.
Don’t be tempted by the curly fries on the menu. Those come from the freezer. Instead, make sure to order the fresh-cut fries, which have a delicate crunch and a soft interior. They are the ideal partner with the restaurant’s thinly sliced Italian beef, which is also made in-house.
Shoestring fries with delightful dipping sauces. From the owners of Mott Street restaurant comes the cutest french fry experience I had in our quest. Don’t let the pink tray fool you. The fries themselves were tiny but mightily tasty, crisp yet retaining a soft potato nature. Help yourself to ketchup, hot sauce and chipotle aioli. The “naked” fries are also available dressed with oil poached garlic, which they offered kindly as a convincing taste on the side.
Old-school neighborhood fries. This is the oldest hot dog restaurant in Chicago, with a history dating back to 1938. The building may be boarded up upstairs but that doesn’t deter the steady stream of customers in Homan Square. I don’t remember if owner Gina Fountain actually called me sweetheart, but it was understood. As is her family’s thoughtful care with the fries. Fat and satisfying, they bear a burnish comparable to the original wooden booths, and a soul as true.
3422 Roosevelt Road, 773-722-9935
The Region specializes in an ultra-smashed burger style that you’ll encounter most often around Northwest Indiana at places like Schoop’s. But unlike that south suburban chain, The Region makes its own fries, instead of using frozen spuds. These are cooked until nearly brown, picking up a distinct roasted aroma along the way.
It’s not exactly a rule, but you can usually expect delicious things if an establishment hangs a neon sign in the front window advertising its fresh-cut fries. Talk about good priorities. It’s also nice to see some large boxes of potatoes stacked in the kitchen, just waiting to be cut and fried. Sure enough, these fries are incredibly satisfying, with a crust that stays crisp even after cooling down.
5313 Lincoln Ave., Skokie, 847-674-4067
The Burger Moovment burger joint is all about keeping its food thin. The burgers feature beef patties that have been smashed on a hot griddle, and its fries are skinny, hovering in between the thickness of the kind you’d find at McDonald’s and super thin shoestring fries. Even though they are crispy on the outside, they somehow stay soft within.
This trendy burger joint in Wheaton spends a lot of time on its website discussing its burger. As it should. It’s a great big juicy offering, which uses beef from local producers. But Burger Social should also highlight the fries, which come out of the kitchen with a gorgeous blond hue. Each one also has a remarkably crisp crust, with a pleasing baked potatolike interior.
Super crunchy fries ready to rock. If you’re worried about the loud music played with Brgrbelly’s rock and roll theme, rest assured the baby at the next table slept in his carrier at this family friendly restaurant. Husband and wife co-owners Steve and Nicole O’Brien opened in Portage Park six years ago, weathering the neighborhood’s changes. Through it all the burgers starred but the fries deserve a solo too. A nearly crazy potato chip crunch breaks through to a soft and tender finish. Get mayo as a dip like you’re back from a European tour.
Susie’s is probably best known for its creatively topped loaded fries. Cheese, chili, chicken, gyros, Polish sausages, bacon— you can get it all and then some on top of your fries. But it turns out that the fries underneath deserve attention, too. They have a remarkably thin crust, which gives way to a supremely soft interior. Instead of salt, they are given a shake of seasoning salt, which adds an unexpected flavor profile — a little spicy and weirdly savory — to each bite.
This Vegas-themed shop in Mundelein serves textbook fresh-cut french fries, with a crunchy exterior and a fluffy interior. The restaurant cooks the fries in vegetable oil, but the owner let me know he changes that oil often, because old oil can lead to off flavors. Sometimes it’s the simplest things, like making sure you’re using fresh oil, which distinguish good fries from the truly memorable ones.
Clean-edged classic Northwest Side-style fast food fries. A ’50s diner vibe includes memorabilia showing namesake founder Bob-O and the converted bus that the shop once called home. Phyllis Bartell and her family took over in the ’70s. Now fryer baskets filled with fries always stand ready in Irving Woods. Crisp and fluffy, these are textbook fresh-cut fries. You can help yourself to ketchup and celery salt if you like. Like all Chicago-style hot dog stands, paradoxically there are no condiment rules with fries.
When I asked Eddie Lakin, owner of Edzo’s, what made the fries at his Evanston burger shop so good, he exhaustively walked me through every step of the process. This was an excellent sign, because it proved how much he’d considered every step. Like most places, he fries the potatoes twice, once at a lower temperature to evenly cook the middle, and finally at a higher temperature to crisp the outside. But in between, he cools the fries down, which helps make the crust that much crisper when cooked the second time.
These are listed on the menu as golden fries, and there’s really no better way to describe them. Each pale yellow fry looks seriously ready for its Instragram close-up. Fortunately, each one also has a delicate crunch, with a fluffy, baked potatolike interior. Needless to say, they also pair exceptionally well with a big, juicy burger — the only other item on the restaurant’s hilariously brief menu.
Top Notch has been doing things the old fashioned way since 1942. That means that all the beef for the burgers is ground at the restaurant, and, most relevant for this discussion, that the fries are cooked in oil laced with beef tallow. So even though the fries might appear like standard blonde-hued diner fries, they have a meaty backbone that makes them far more satisfying.
2116 W. 95th St., 773-445-7218
This iconic River Grove stand is a finely oiled fast-food machine that kicks out hot dogs and fresh-cut french fries at an astonishing rate. It’s mesmerizing to simply watch them dress the hot dogs with speed, before tossing on a mess of fries and wrapping up everything in paper. In fact, if you order fries separately, you throw a wrench in the machine, slowing down the process by a good minute or two. But regardless of whether you order just fries or get them piled on a hot dog, they’ll be creamy in the middle, with a delicately crisp crust. While great on their own, they do reach their maximum potential when combined with one of the stand’s hot dogs.
On my first visit to this retro hot dog stand in suburban Des Plaines, I watched a cook shovel a huge portion of white beef tallow into the fryer. That’s the exact moment I knew the fries would be good. The tallow infuses the potato with a meaty profile, almost like the flavor of a baked potato when it mixes with juices from a steak. Of course, it helps that the potatoes are cut in house and fried twice. But it’s the flavor from the tallow that will linger after you’ve polished off the whole order.
Crunchy batons with the fry connoisseur’s coveted, crackling exploded ends. Illinois Bar & Grill is best known for the self-proclaimed best burger in Illinois, as well as one of Nick’s picks as best burger in Chicago. I say the fries alone are worth a trip across town unless you’re lucky enough to live or work in Archer Heights. Whether you’re going Friday after work or Monday morning, both actual times I visited, you’ll have to wait for your order. The reward is a gloriously bountiful basket presented with a cold squeeze bottle of ketchup. Not that you need any condiment with crunchy flavorful bits providing more than enough interest and complexity.
4135 W. 47th St., 773-847-2525
Soft, irregular and irreverent, stuffed with baked potato flavor. This is the oldest Chicago hot dog stand in the same location, claimed “Hot Dog” Faruggia recently behind the counter at Grand Avenue and Pulaski Road. Open since 1954, Jimmy’s Red Hots, named after Faruggia’s father, Jimmy, used to fry in beef tallow, but now uses a vegetable base. I grew up a block away in West Humboldt Park, and these were my first fries ever, imprinting Proustian memories of the tallow that leaves a telltale waxy feel in one’s mouth. If your ideal fry is crisp or crunchy, these aren’t that. They are, however, possibly the closest you can get molecularly to baked potato in fry form. No ketchup, but you can request hot dog condiments and make it a meal.
Redhot Ranch’s fresh-cut fries are dished out with a stunning lack of fanfare. As soon as they are pulled from the fryer, a cook salts them, wraps them up in paper, shoves them into a brown paper bag and slides them across the counter. So why are they so irresistible? The crust has an audible crunch, which breaks into an interior that’s like the creamiest mashed potatoes you can imagine. Instead of rinsing the potatoes after cutting, a practice that removes some of the starch on the exterior, these go straight in the oil. This explains the fantastic crunch, and the curious fact that the fries sometimes latch on to each other in the oil and never let go. So don’t be surprised if you reach down for one, yet come out with three or four. Of course, Redhot Ranch also slings out an incredible double cheeseburger and a flawless minimalist-style hot dog, but you’d be silly to ignore the potatoes.
2072 N. Western Ave., 773-772-6020
Long, languorous golden bars filled seemingly with silken whipped potatoes. Mike and Ann Antonopoulos opened their one-room fast food restaurant nearly 50 years ago as immigrants from Greece. Little has changed, except their son John joined the family business decades ago. He said his father is Mr. D, but doesn’t know why. A surprising mystery since it’s just the trio who work so closely together, unless you’ve witnessed the way they work. Imagine a silent ceremony for Japanese tea, instead transforming the same potatoes that steakhouses use into edible kinetic art. These biggest bakers, twice the size and price as those typically used for fries, are sliced then dropped twice in vegetable fat and beef tallow. Sheathed like taut tempura, the first fry you bite into will release a puff of pure potato essence. The warm glow inexplicably evokes for me such strong memories of lingering over fries and wine on the Mediterranean, that stepping out the door in Montclare I half expect to see the shimmering sea.
Here are the other 86 restaurants we visited in our french fry quest:
Tribune staffers Sade Carpenter, Jennifer Day, Joe Gray, Adam Lukach, Tony Puricelli, Josh Noel, Phil Vettel and Grace Wong helped taste and evaluate the fries.
Created by the Chicago Tribune Dataviz team. On Twitter @ChiTribGraphics
Copyright © 2019, Chicago Tribune
The producers of the acclaimed Anthony Bourdain series on food adventure are in the midst of creating a special to be called “Fries,” filmed around the world and bringing into perspective the cultural phenom of Fries, a subject I’ve been enthusiastically wring on in FrenchFryHistory. Com for a while. Looking forward to it, while now enjoying great fries in NewZealand and soon Australia, as we steam north-west across a foggy Tasman Sea pre-dawn.
Is it too early to declare this the ‘The Year of the Fry?’
Think about it. McDonald’s just launched limited-time cheesy bacon fries, no doubt targeting Wendy’s Baconator Fries (which, to be fair, have been around for nearly four years). Wendy’s responded to the launch by putting its version in the promotional spotlight – free Baconator Fries to anyone who ordered through the brand’s mobile app – inciting a bacon fry battle of sorts to start the New Year.
French fries have long been a quick-service staple, as well as the subject of intense debate over which brand does them best. However, a case can be made that recent launches have been different. Sexier.
Consider Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries, for example. First introduced in January 2018, the Nacho Fries quickly became the brand’s most successful product launch ever – more than 53 million orders were sold in the product’s first three months alone. The fries made up more than 30% of all Taco Bell orders, yielding both check and transaction increases.
So successful was this product launch, Taco Bell has already brought it back twice as a limited-time offer. Nacho Fries were inarguably a major factor in the chain’s strong 2018 performance.
Republican congressman Walter B Jones, known for changing the name of French fries in government cafeterias to “freedom fries”, has died.
Mr Jones was a keen supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and pushed for the name change in protest against France’s opposition to the war.
But he later had a complete change of heart, becoming one of the most vocal critics of the war in his party.
His office confirmed that he died on 10 February, his 76th birthday.
Mr Jones represented his district for 34 years, first in the North Carolina state legislature, then in Congress.
At the time of his death, he was being cared for in a hospice in Greenville, North Carolina, having broken his hip last month. His office said that his health declined after his fall on 14 January.
“Congressman Jones will long be remembered for his honesty, faith and integrity,” a statement from his office said.
“He was never afraid to take a principled stand. He was known for his independence, and widely admired across the political spectrum. Some may not have agreed with him, but all recognised that he did what he thought was right.”
Like most Republicans – and a number of Democrats – Mr Jones backed President George W Bush’s resolution to use military force in Iraq to oust its leader Saddam Hussein.
Mr Bush justified the invasion by claiming that Saddam Hussein had developed and hidden weapons of mass destruction.
France, which threatened to veto the UN’s resolution authorising US-led military action, was the most vocal in its opposition to the war.
In response, Mr Jones and his fellow Republican Robert W Ney pushed for cafeterias in the House of Representatives to rename their French fries and French toast “freedom fries” and “freedom toast”.
The two congressmen were successful, and the new names were met with praise and derision in equal measure.
No weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, and it was later revealed that the war was justified using faulty information.
At the same time, Mr Jones met grieving families whose loved ones were killed in the war. This caused him to have a dramatic change of heart, and in 2005 he called for the troops to be brought home.
He spoke candidly on several occasions about how deeply he regretted supporting the war, which led to the deaths of more than 140,000 Iraqi and American people.
“I have signed over 12,000 letters to families and extended families who’ve lost loved ones in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars,” he told NPR in 2017. “That was, for me, asking God to forgive me for my mistake.”
(I condone the thought behind this radical, impractical approach.)
What better way to celebrate a Friday than with French fries?
Today, July 13, is National French Fry Day and plenty of places are offering free or discounted deals on everyone’s favorite crispy potato treat. Not every location participates in all promotions, so be sure to check ahead.
Here’s a look at some of the best deals and discounts for National French Fry Day:
Place an order via McDonald’s mobile app for $1 or more and receive a free medium order of fries.
Selected locations are offering free order of regular hand-cut fries with any purchase. Offer good July 13 only from open to close.
Get two small orders of fries and two Original Chicken Sandwiches for $4.99 with a coupon in the restaurant’s app.
Sign up for the chain’s emails and receive a free small fries and beverage with purchase of any One-Third Pound Thickburger.
The chain has brought back Nacho Fries.
Fries form half of one of the top Belgian foods along with a pot of mussels – known as moules frites – and are a national Belgian symbol with political punch.
If you say the word potato, the Irish Potato Famine of 1845 and the origination of tubers in South America come to mind. But chop them up, drop them in a vat of simmering oil, add a touch of salt and you’ve got a whole new ball-game of Belgian fries. So where exactly is the French fries origin?
Indeed, you will make no mistake about the French fries origin once you visit Belgium: Fries have permeated into every pore of Belgian culture from pop art and comic strips to music and advertising. You will find fritesstalls (frietkot) across Belgium, which are certain to ensure the economic return on Belgian potatoes (bintjes) for eons to come.
The ‘chip’ or ‘French fry’ has gone a long way in putting the Kingdom of Belgium on the map – culinary or otherwise – even if they are called ‘freedom fries’ in-flight on Air Force One, ‘patates kizartmasi‘ in an Istanbul Café, ‘gamza teekim‘ on the streets of Seoul or ranskalaiset perunat sitting on a bench in Helsinki.
Often mistaken as French in origin, the word ‘french’ became synonymous with frites due to the fact that, in old English, to ‘french’ was to ‘cut lengthwise’. Hence, the French fry.
“We modest Belgians don’t mind the French claim because we know that fries are God’s gift to our people,” exclaims a website completely dedicated to the art form of Belgian fries making.
You wouldn’t be the only one to mistake the French fries origin. ‘Fry ban targets wrong country’ went a Reuters headline at the height of the French product boycott in the US following its stance against the Iraqi conflict.
“The chip is essentially regarded in Belgium as a culture, social strata and gender bridge: soul food,” says Paul Ilegems, curator of the Belgium Chip Museum on the second floor of Frietkot Max on Antwerp’s Groenplaats.
“What would Belgium be without chips?” he asks in the pages of “Het Belgisch Frietenbook, “Just a grayish zone, an insignificant stain on the globe, deprived of any personality.”
A bit harsh perhaps but it’s obviously clear that frites are serious stuff in Belgium.
“Belgium is beer, cartoons, mussels, chips and the Royal family,” a frietkot (frite stall) owner sums up.
What we recognise today as Belgian ‘frites‘ or ‘friets‘ is thought to have originated in the Meuse region in the year 1680. The poor inhabitants of the Meuse valley area subsisted mainly on fish, but when the river Meuse froze in 1680, potatoes were cut into the shape of fish, fried and used as a substitute to their main staple – or so the story of Belgian fries goes.
The Belgian tourism board says that Belgian fries – ‘les frites’ – were incorrectly named ‘French fries’ by American servicemen when they came to Belgium at the end of World War I. The French fries mislabel was reportedly the result of naming the fries after the French language spoken in Wallonia.
There has been much disagreement over the origin of frites as the region lies in the heart of French-speaking Wallonia, forcing Flanders to desperately seek a Flemish origin to the food. But, as in most countries, food can define culture and in frites are generally accepted as a unifying force and thoroughly ‘Belgian’ – francophone or not.
French fries (or rather Belgian fries) are thought to have arrived in the US in the late 1700s when Thomas Jefferson brought the method back to the colonies. We can guess it’s the method he brought back and not a soggy bag of chips.
In the UK, the first chip is believed to have materialised at Dundee Market in the 1870s, traded by a Belgian immigrant named Edward De Gernier.
As for the frites add-on essential, mayonnaise, its origin is cloudy. One theory connects it to the harbour town of Mahon, liberated by Cardinal Richelieux from the English. The towns of Bayonne and Mayon, however, also claim the golden morsels as their own.
Frites have essentially become a national Belgian symbol sold out of caravans and shacks and chalets, fried twice (trade secret), dash of salt, glob of mayonnaise, a little plastic fork and presto: perfect fries.
The idea has been exported to New York and, as the song goes, if a chip can make it there it can make it anywhere.
Lest we forget though that there are many levels of Belgian chip-eatery – not all of them are handed over a greasy counter in an off-white paper cone by a burley chip-van owner in Anderlecht. On restaurant menus you can find filet mignon served with a chiffoné of pommes frites, if you please.
Fries have come a long way since their fishy origins and have mutated to fit each culture that has adopted them – newspaper-stained and doused in salt and vinegar in Birmingham, or cooked in peanut oil and served in a basket of palm leaves in Borneo, to name a few.
But they remain Belgian through and through while encouraging Breughel-belly across the globe.
Although the US may not have known it, they were killing two birds with one stone when they boycotted French fries – they made a point to the French and rejected a Belgian product at the same time.
Who would have guessed the political power of potatoes?
The best potatoes for French fries are fresh, never frozen, and with a medium-firm consistency that is not too firm nor too soft. In the best French fries recipe, frites are cut rectangular around 1cm square. The secret to the Belgian fries recipe is that the potato is fried twice. The Belgian tourism board recommends that the first fry should be done at 150°C and the second fry at 175 °C.
The result are golden perfect French fries that have a soft inside once your crunch through a crispy outside. You then just have to choose your frite topping or speciality fries sauces in Belgium, such as:
Read tips on how to get perfect French fries in this not-no-secret French fries recipe.
A serving of French fries
|Alternative names||Chips, finger chips, fries, frites, hot chips, steak fries, potato wedges, wedges|
|Course||Side dish or snack, rarely as a main dish|
|Place of origin||Belgium, France, or Spain|
|Serving temperature||Hot, generally salted|
|Variations||curly fries, shoestring fries, steak fries, sweet potato fries, Chili cheese fries, poutine|
|Other information||Often served with a side of ketchup, mayonnaise, vinegar, barbecue sauce, or other sauce|
|Cookbook: French Fries Media: French Fries|
French fries (North American English), chips (British English), finger chips (Indian English), or French-fried potatoes are batonnet or allumette-cut deep-fried potatoes. In the United States and most of Canada, the term fries refers to all dishes of fried elongated pieces of potatoes, while in the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa (rarely), Ireland and New Zealand, thinly cut fried potatoes are sometimes called shoestring fries or skinny fries to distinguish them from chips, which are cut thicker.
French fries are served hot, either soft or crispy, and are generally eaten as part of lunch or dinner or by themselves as a snack, and they commonly appear on the menus of diners, fast food restaurants, pubs, and bars. They are usually salted and, depending on the country, may be served with tomato sauce, ketchup, vinegar, mayonnaise, or other local specialties. Fries can be topped more heavily, as in the dishes of poutine and chili cheese fries. Chips can be made from kumara or other sweet potatoes instead of potatoes. A baked variant, oven chips, uses less oil or no oil. One very common fast food dish is fish and chips.
French fries are prepared by first peeling and cutting the potato into even strips. These are then wiped off or soaked in cold water to remove the surface starch, and thoroughly dried. They may then be fried in one or two stages. Chefs generally agree that the two-bath technique produces better results. Potatoes fresh out of the ground can have too high a water content – resulting in soggy fries – so preference is for spuds that have been in storage for a while.
In the two-stage or two-bath method, the first bath, sometimes called blanching, is in hot fat (around 160 °C / 320 °F) to cook them through. This may be done in advance. Then they are more briefly fried in very hot fat (190 °C / 375 °F) to crisp the exterior. They are then placed in a colander or on a cloth to drain, salted, and served. The exact times of the two baths depend on the size of the potatoes. For example, for 2–3mm strips, the first bath takes about 3 minutes, and the second bath takes only seconds. There are several common techniques to cook French Fries. Deep frying is a cooking method in which food is submerged in hot fat, most commonly oil. Vacuum fryers are fit to process low-quality potatoes that contain higher sugar levels than normal, as they frequently have to be processed in spring and early summer before the potatoes from the new harvest become available. In the UK, a Chip pan is a deep-sided cooking pan used for deep-frying. Chip pans are named for their traditional use in frying chips.
Most French fries are produced from frozen potatoes which have been blanched or at least air-dried industrially. Most chain that sell fresh cut fries rely on the Idaho Russet Burbank variety of potatoes. It has been the standard for French fries in the United States. The usual fat for making French fries is vegetable oil. In the past, beef suet was recommended as superior, with vegetable shortening as an alternative. In fact, McDonald’s used a mixture of 93% beef tallow and 7% cottonseed oil until 1990, when they switched to vegetable oil with beef flavoring. Starting in the sixties, more fast food restaurants have been using frozen French fries.
Thomas Jefferson had “potatoes served in the French manner” at a White House dinner in 1802. The expression “French fried potatoes” first occurred in print in English in the 1856 work Cookery for Maids of All Work by E. Warren: “French Fried Potatoes. – Cut new potatoes in thin slices, put them in boiling fat, and a little salt; fry both sides of a light golden brown colour; drain.” This account referred to thin, shallow-fried slices of potato – it is not clear where or when the now familiar deep-fried batons or fingers of potato were first prepared. In the early 20th century, the term “French fried” was being used in the sense of “deep-fried” for foods like onion rings or chicken.
There is an ongoing dispute between the French and Belgians about where fries were invented, with both countries claiming ownership. From the Belgian standpoint the popularity of the term “French fries” is explained as a “French gastronomic hegemony” into which the cuisine of Belgium was assimilated because of a lack of understanding coupled with a shared language and geographic proximity between the two countries.
Belgian journalist Jo Gérard claims that a 1781 family manuscript recounts that potatoes were deep-fried prior to 1680 in the Meuse valley, in what was then the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium): “The inhabitants of Namur, Andenne, and Dinant had the custom of fishing in the Meuse for small fish and frying, especially among the poor, but when the river was frozen and fishing became hazardous, they cut potatoes in the form of small fish and put them in a fryer like those here.” Gérard has not produced the manuscript that supports this claim due to the fact that it is unrelated to the later history of the French fry, as the potato did not arrive in the region until around 1735. Also, given 18th century economic conditions: “It is absolutely unthinkable that a peasant could have dedicated large quantities of fat for cooking potatoes. At most they were sautéed in a pan…”.
“French fries” for deep fried potato batons were also introduced when American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I. The Belgians had previously been catering to the British soldiers’ love of chips and continued to serve them to the Americans when they took over the western end of the front. The Americans took them to be French fried potatoes because they believed themselves to be in France, with French being the local language and the official language of the Belgian Army at that time. At that time, the term “French fries” was growing in popularity – the term was already used in the United States as early as 1899 – although it isn’t clear whether this referred to batons (chips) or slices of potato e.g. in an item in Good Housekeeping which specifically references “Kitchen Economy in France”: “The perfection of French fries is due chiefly to the fact that plenty of fat is used”.
“Pommes frites” or just “frites” (French), “frieten” (Flemish) or “patat” (Dutch) became the national snack and a substantial part of several national dishes, such as Moules-frites or Steak-frites. Fries are very popular in Belgium, where they are known as frieten (in Dutch) or frites (in French), and the Netherlands, where among the working classes they are known as patat in the north and, in the south, friet. In Belgium, fries are sold in shops called friteries (French), frietkot/frituur (Dutch), or Fritüre/Frittüre (German). They are served with a large variety of Belgian sauces and eaten either on their own or with other snacks. Traditionally fries are served in a cornet de frites (French), patatzak/frietzak/fritzak (Dutch/Flemish), or Frittentüte (German), a white cardboard cone, then wrapped in paper, with a spoonful of sauce (often mayonnaise) on top.
Friteries and other fast food establishments tend to offer a number of different sauces for the fries and meats. In addition to ketchup and mayonnaise, popular options include: aioli, sauce andalouse, sauce Americaine, Bicky Dressing (Gele Bicky-sauce), curry mayonnaise, mammoet-sauce, peanut sauce, samurai-sauce, sauce “Pickles“, pepper-sauce, tartar sauce, zigeuner sauce, and À la zingara.
In Spain, fried potatoes are called patatas fritas or papas fritas. Another common form, involving larger irregular cuts, is patatas bravas. The potatoes are cut into big chunks, partially boiled and then fried. They are usually seasoned with a spicy tomato sauce, and the dish is one of the most preferred tapas by Spaniards. Fries may have been invented in Spain, the first European country in which the potato appeared from the New World colonies, and assume fries’ first appearance to have been as an accompaniment to fish dishes in Galicia, from which it spread to the rest of the country and then further away, to the “Spanish Netherlands”, which became Belgium more than a century later. Professor Paul Ilegems, curator of the Frietmuseum in Bruges, Belgium, believes that Saint Teresa of Ávila of Spain cooked the first French fries, and refers also to the tradition of frying in Mediterranean cuisine as evidence.
In France and other French-speaking countries, fried potatoes are formally pommes de terre frites, but more commonly pommes frites, patates frites, or simply frites. The words aiguillettes (“needle-ettes”) or allumettes (“matchsticks”) are used when the French fries are very small and thin. One enduring origin story holds that French fries were invented by street vendors on the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris in 1789, just before the outbreak of the French Revolution. However, a reference exists in France from 1775 to “a few pieces of fried potato” and to “fried potatoes”.
Eating potatoes for sustenance was promoted in France by Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, but he did not mention fried potatoes in particular. Many Americans attribute the dish to France and offer as evidence a notation by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson: “Pommes de terre frites à cru, en petites tranches” (“Potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small slices”) in a manuscript in Thomas Jefferson’s hand (circa 1801–1809) and the recipe almost certainly comes from his French chef, Honoré Julien. In addition, from 1813 on, recipes for what can be described as “French fries” occur in popular American cookbooks. By the late 1850s, a cookbook was published that used the term French fried potatoes. The thick-cut fries are called Pommes Pont-Neuf or simply pommes frites (about 10 mm); thinner variants are pommes allumettes(matchstick potatoes; about 7 mm), and pommes paille (potato straws; 3–4 mm). (Roughly 0.4, 0.3 and 0.15 inch respectively.) Pommes gaufrettes are waffle fries. A popular dish in France is steak-frites, which is steak accompanied by thin French fries.
The town of Florenceville-Bristol, New Brunswick, headquarters of McCain Foods, calls itself “the French fry capital of the world” and also hosts a museum about potatoes called “Potato World”. It is also one of the world’s largest manufacturers of frozen French fries and other potato specialties.
Frites are the main ingredient in the Canadian/Québécois dish known (in both Canadian English and French) as poutine; a dish consisting of fried potatoes covered with cheese curds and brown gravy. Poutine has a growing number of variations but is generally considered to have been developed in rural Québec sometime in the 1950s, although precisely where in the province it first appeared is a matter of contention. Canada is also responsible for providing 22% of China’s French fries.
French fries migrated to the German-speaking countries during the 19th century. In Germany, where they are usually known by the French words pommes frites, or only Pommes or Fritten (derived from the French words but pronounced as German words). They are often served with mayonnaise, and are a popular walking snack offered by Schnellimbiss (“quick bite”) kiosks. Since the advent of Currywurst in the 1950s, a paper tray of sausage (bratwurst or bockwurst) anointed with curry ketchup, laced with additional curry powder and a side of french fries, has become an immensely popular fast food meal.
The standard deep-fried cut potatoes in the United Kingdom are called chips, and are cut into pieces between 10 and 15 mm (0.39 and 0.59 in) wide. They are occasionally made from unpeeled potatoes (skins showing). British chips are not the same thing as potato chips (an American term); those are called “crisps” in Britain. In the UK, chips are part of the popular, and now international, fast food dish fish and chips.
The first chips fried in the UK were sold by Mrs. ‘Granny’ Duce in one of the West Riding towns in 1854. A blue plaque in Oldham marks the origin of the fish-and-chip shop, and thus the start of the fast food industry in Britain. In Scotland, chips were first sold in Dundee: “in the 1870s, that glory of British gastronomy – the chip – was first sold by Belgian immigrant Edward De Gernier in the city’s Greenmarket”.In Ireland the first chip shop was “opened by Giuseppe Cervi”, an Italian immigrant, “who arrived there in the 1880s”. It is estimated that in the UK, 80% of households buy frozen fries each year.
Although French fries were a popular dish in most British commonwealth countries, the “thin style” French fries have been popularized worldwide in large part by the large American fast food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s. In the United States, the J. R. Simplot Company is credited with successfully commercializing French fries in frozen form during the 1940s. Subsequently, in 1967, Ray Kroc of McDonald’s contracted the Simplot company to supply them with frozen fries, replacing fresh-cut potatoes as an ingredient. In 2004, 29% of the United States’ potato crop was used to make frozen fries – 90% consumed by the food services sector and 10% by retail. The United States is also known for supplying China with most of their French fries as 70% of China’s French fries are imported.. Pre-made French fries have been available for home cooking since the 1960s, having been pre-fried (or sometimes baked), frozen and placed in a sealed plastic bag. Some varieties of French fries that appeared later have been battered and breaded, and many fast food chains in the U.S. dust the potatoes with kashi, dextrin, and other flavor coatings for crispier fries with particular tastes. French fries are one of the most popular dishes in the United States, commonly being served as a side dish to entrees and being seen in fast food restaurants. The average American eats around 30 pounds of French fries a year. 
There are several variants of French fries. A partial list, in alphabetical order:
Chili cheese fries
Fries tend to be served with a variety of accompaniments, such as salt and vinegar (malt, balsamic or white), pepper, Cajun seasoning, grated cheese, melted cheese, mushy peas, heated curry sauce, curry ketchup (mildly spiced mix of the former), hot sauce, relish, mustard, mayonnaise, bearnaise sauce, tartar sauce, chili, tzatziki, feta cheese, garlic sauce, fry sauce, butter, sour cream, ranch dressing, barbecue sauce, gravy, honey, aioli, brown sauce, ketchup, lemon juice, piccalilli, pickled cucumber, pickled gherkins, pickled onions or pickled eggs.
French fries primarily contain carbohydrates (mostly in the form of starch) and protein from the potato, and fat absorbed during the deep-frying process. Salt, which contains sodium is almost always applied as a surface seasoning. For example, a large serving of French fries at McDonald’s in the United States is 154 grams. The 510 calories come from 66 g of carbohydrates, 24 g of fat, 7 g of protein and 350 mg of sodium.
French fries have been critically panned by experts for being very unhealthy. According to Jonathan Bonnet, MD, in a TIME magazine article, “fries are nutritionally unrecognizable from a spud” as they “involve frying, salting, and removing one of the healthiest parts of the potato: the skin, where many of the nutrients and fiber are found.”Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, calls French fries “…an extremely starchy vegetable dipped in a fryer that then loads on the unhealthy fat, and what you have left is a food that has no nutritional redeeming value in it at all.” David Katz, MD states that “French fries are often the super-fatty side dish to a burger—and both are often used as vehicles for things like sugar-laced ketchup and fatty mayo.”
Frying french fries in beef tallow, lard, or other animal fats adds saturated fat to the diet. Replacing animal fats with tropical vegetable oils, such as palm oil, simply substitutes one saturated fat for another. For many years partially hydrogenated vegetable oils were used as a means of avoiding cholesterol and reducing saturated fatty acid content, but in time the trans fat content of these oils was perceived as contributing to cardiovascular disease. Starting in 2008, many restaurant chains and manufacturers of pre-cooked frozen French fries for home reheating phased out trans fat containing vegetable oils
French fries contain some of the highest levels of acrylamides of any foodstuff, and concerns have been raised about the impact of acrylamides on human health. According to the American Cancer Society, it is not clear as of 2013 whether acrylamide consumption affects people’s risk of getting cancer. A meta-analysis indicated that dietary acrylamide is not related to the risk of most common cancers, but could not exclude a modest association for kidney, endometrial or ovarian cancers. A lower-fat method for producing a French fry-like product is to coat “Frenched” or wedge potatoes in oil and spices/flavoring before baking them. The heat will not be as high as when deep frying, and this also reduces acrylamides.
In June 2004, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), with the advisement of a federal district judge from Beaumont, Texas, classified batter-coated French fries as a vegetable under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. This was primarily for trade reasons; French fries do not meet the standard to be listed as a processed food. This classification, referred to as the “French fry rule”, was upheld in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit case Fleming Companies, Inc. v. USDA.
In the United States, in 2002, the McDonald’s Corporation agreed to donate to Hindus and other groups to settle lawsuits filed against the chain for mislabeling French fries and hash browns as vegetarian because beef extract was added in their production.
… the chef at the Rainbow Room launches into a description of his special steak, its French-fried onion rings, its button mushrooms …
French Fried Chicken
French fried potatoes
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