December 12, 2008

Clover fries

Some of you were lucky enough to have your food photographed before we handed it to you today. I realized I should have been doing this all along.

Posting this today I realized I never gave you the story of the fries. Now that we know they are a hit I don’t have to worry about influencing your reaction with a story. So here it is:

Most french fries are extruded. Mashed up “western” potatoes, “flavor enhancers,” lots of stuff with names only organic chemists will recognize, extruded, cooked, coated with corn starch (to make the fries crispy), and frozen. The frozen fries are dropped into hot oil (that’s often colder, older and dirtier than it should be), and there you go. (tons more after the break)

If you get fries from a proper French Bistro, or a high end restaurant, you might be getting real potatoes. Western potatoes are cut, soaked in ice cold water for 2-3 hours, dried. Then sometimes they are coated with corn starch (not traditional, but often done anyway). The fries are “par-cooked” at a lower temperature oil. Cooled and dried. Then dropped into a hot oil just before being served. Sometimes you can spot these fries by their puffy exterior. And they should taste like potatoes. There’s a place called “Five Guys” that’s getting famous for bringing this style fry to fast food.

There are other odd fries (“airfries,” “baked fries,” etc.). Check out b.good for our best local example, or uFood Grill if you want them done badly.

Then there are those who break the rules. In N Out Burgers does their fries differently. Cut, brief soak, into the oil, into your basket. And you better eat them fast because they turn to cardboard if you don’t. But if you do eat them fast you feel like you’re eating a potato just out of the ground. And you almost are. They’re awesome.

When we started this journey we thought the oil would matter a ton, the timing would matter a ton, the preparation would matter a ton. What we found was that the potatoes are what matter. Specifically, how fresh? Our fries draw inspiration from some I can’t get out of my head that I had at a street vendor in Halifax back in 2001. They were unbelievable.

We broke the rules by using “Eastern” potatoes (Price Edward Island Potatoes to be specific) instead of the Western varieties. Everybody told us you can’t make fries that way. In fact I’m in an ongoing battle with my supplier who keeps sending me “Cowboy” potatoes, and other Western varieties because he doesn’t think I know what I’m ordering.

And we threw out the par-cooking. You’ve seen us. We cut the fries, barely soak them (the cold water removes starch, and the Eastern Potatoes don’t have the same amount as Western), and fry them. Your fries might have been cut 10 minutes before you eat them, they’ve never been sitting around more than 30 or 40 minutes.

We think these are the best french fries ever. And your response has been great. I had to raise the price just to try to manage the demand.

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