5@5 - More than one way to fry a potato
February 7th, 2012
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Editor's Note: Raised in Versailles, France, Dominique Crenn is now the executive chef of Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn in San Francisco.

French fries (or frites, as the French will say) are loved by many, including the queen herself, Julia Child, who once said, “Potatoes are strange animals.”

The French fry has a long history in the human diet. When I think of them, I recall my mother's crisp, perfectly salted, skin-on frites - never greasy, and made each Sunday with the Brittany-grown potato in my childhood home.

Because I grew up with what were surely the best and truest frites in the world, I tend to have very strong opinions on this matter, as admittedly, I have on many food matters. There will be no ordering of French fries anywhere unless I have done my homework. And just because an ingredient, like the potato, is “common” or humble does not mean that it should not be respected and cooked well.

A debate long-standing and rich with rivalry: who invented the food that we call the French fry? People, I ask you: does the very name not speak for itself?

The French claim the invention of the French Fry during the French Revolution, a tale of Parisian cooks frying the modest tuber under the Pont Neuf bridge. Belgians claim creation around the same time when frying the potato became necessary during a very difficult winter of frozen rivers; allegedly, out of a lack of fish, many potato preparations were born.

Here’s what I think, above all: I love the French fry, regardless of its origins. (But remember the name.)

1. How to make a perfect French fry, à la my mother
Choose a potato with a low percentage of humidity. Russet are best.

Peel the potato and wash it in cold water to eliminate the starch.

Cut the potato into batons.

First, blanch the potato at 325°F for 5 minutes, then let the potato rest and cool.

Next, fry the potato at 375°F in a good frying oil, ideally blended oil, which will give the potato (that is now becoming a fry) a nice crispy texture.

Season your fry with sea salt. Eat.

2. Frites et chocolat - think fries and a chocolate shake
Follow the first recipe of cooking. Then, add cinnamon and sugar to fries.

For chocolate dip:
2 whole eggs
5 oz of dark chocolate (Valrhona is my favorite)
1 pinch of sea salt
2.5 oz of softened goat butter (of course, use cow butter if it’s all you’ve got)

Melt the chocolate and 2 oz of butter over a double boiler.

Take off heat and add 2 egg yolks to the rest of the goat butter and stir into the melted chocolate.

Whip the 2 egg whites with a pinch of sea salt and fold into the chocolate mixture.

Dip sweet and savory fries into chocolate. Eat.

3. Another fun way to dress up Madame Frite
Follow the first recipe of cooking.

For cashew dip:
3.5 oz of toasted cashews
8 oz of water
1 tsp chopped Italian parsley leaves
1 tsp chopped tarragon leaves
1/2 tsp chopped mint leaves
0.25 oz sherry vinegar
1 clove of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

In a mixer, blend the toasted cashews, water, garlic and sherry vinegar until smooth.

Strain the mixture and add the herbs, salt and pepper.

Dip fries in cashew dip. Eat.

4. Not fried fries
1 Russet potato
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 Tbsp piment d’Espelette
1/4 Tbsp ground cumin

Peel the potato and wash it in cold water to eliminate the starch.

Cut the potato into small wedges or however you imagine a fry to be shaped.

Add olive oil, piment d’Espelette and cumin to the cut potatoes and mix well.

Organize the seasoned potatoes on a baking sheet and bake them at 425°F for 30 minutes.

Let the seasoned potatoes rest for 10 minutes and bake them again at 425°F for 10 more minutes.*

*A note from the Crenn kitchen: The reason I rest the fries is so that they cool, because once they do, and are reintroduced to heat, you can achieve a much crispier fry.

5. French Fries à la Crenn - A modern way to cook potato
For this sous vide version, as with fried and baked preparations, choose a potato with a lower percentage of humidity, like Russet.

Once again, peel the potato and wash it in cold water to eliminate the starch.

Cut the potato into batons.

In a vacuum bag, put the potato batons to brine with water and sea salt. Seal the bag and refrigerate it for about 15 minutes.

Drain the potato and put it in another vacuum bag with duck fat. Seal it and cook it in a circulating water bath at 185°F for 1 hour. Then let cool.

Deep-fry the potato at 375°F in duck fat until golden brown. Eat.

dominique crenn

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Bite • Dishes • French Fries • Think

soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Claire

    I have a version of fries and a vanilla shake – but savory. It's oven-roasted french fries and a savory vanilla sauce. Delicious!


    February 10, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  2. Hmmmm

    Step 1. Get a bag of Ore Ida frozen fries. 2. Microwave fries until hot. 3. Immediately deep fry in lard (375) until crisp (5 min or less). 3 Eat. Don't knock it till you try it.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  3. denim

    I'm a bit puzzled. A potato is solid starch, just about. What's this about washing it to get rid of the starch?

    February 8, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  4. yahmez

    Aren't people fat enough without telling them to deep fry stuff in duck oil? Yuck.

    February 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  5. Me

    Dip sweet and savory fries into chocolate. Eat. Then throw up. Repeat.

    February 8, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • yahmez

      Pommes Frites Americano

      Cut potatoes into thin batons.
      Deep fry in liposuction fat.
      Add salt until your DOCTOR has a heart attack.

      February 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  6. Me

    The French actually call French fries "Pommes Frites" – fried potatoes. Who would have thunk.

    February 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • French Lesson™@Me

      Pomme is the french word for apple. Potato's are actually called Pomme de Terre, loosely translated to "Apples of the Earth".

      February 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
      • HA@French Lesson

        Talking to yourself again?

        February 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
      • HEE™@HA

        Je ne parle pas anglais.....

        February 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
      • HA®@HEE™

        C'est très bien. Je ne parle pas français

        February 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  7. michael

    First description of Mom's fries says "UNPEELED" than below in the recipe a'la Mom – "PEELED"

    Which is correct? (I like skins on – more healthy, more flavor)

    February 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Hubes

      Yes, no great French fry recipe includes the direction, "peel the potatoes."

      February 8, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  8. Carn E. Vore

    That sous vide recipe sounds absolutely delicious.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  9. Chris Porter

    One word: poutine.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • KFC Clone

      Is that the thing with fries, cheese curds (whatever the heck that is) and brown gravy? KFC offers something like that and add fried chicken to it. They're both nast.

      February 8, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
      • AR

        then you have not been to Quebec .... La Banquise Poutine is beyond good... Anything at KFC/Burger King etc is terrible, so I am not suprise their Poutine is bad ... also you need the right cheese. The rest of Canada uses canadian cheddar, so I doubt Americans use the traditional poutine cheese that gives Poutine that taste. I might sound like a poutine snob, but it truly needs to be done right for it to be a real poutine

        February 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
      • KellyinCA

        Of course, not to be outdone by La Belle Province, Newfoundlanders have created a number of rival concoctions involving the substitution or addition of poultry stuffing (with summer savory), weiners, and/or ground beef. Suffered a gallbladder attack after having one with just gravy and stuffing. Consider yourself warned.

        February 8, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  10. Jimbo

    The key to great french fries is the amount of grease (cooking oil) they contain. Thus, thin cut and double frying are essential–and please make them crispy.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  11. WTF?

    Does the author not say "skin-on" in the article??? "I recall my mother's crisp, perfectly salted, skin-on frites – never greasy, and made each Sunday with the Brittany-grown potato in my childhood home." Then the directions say to "peel the potato". WTF???

    February 8, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  12. Wastrel

    Bacon fat, for the win.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  13. Wastrel

    Bacon fat, FTW.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  14. dragonwife1

    Or if you just want to be lazy and go for the fast-food version, Smashburger has the best fast-food fries I've ever tasted. Their rosemary and olive oil fries are the only fast food fries I can eat without dousing them in ketchup.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:55 am |
  15. Practicality rules

    Yeah, I'll have fries with that. [end of story]

    February 8, 2012 at 5:38 am |
  16. ABQLifer

    Dominique sure is beautiful;)

    February 8, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • Peeking@Dominique

      haha that was all I got from the article too, she's hawt!

      February 8, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  17. sbp

    Have to disagree about peeling the potatoes, "rinsing off the starch," THEN cutting into batons. This results in only a fraction of the final surface area of each fry being rinsed. Slice into batons, THEN rinse. Also, pat dry with paper towels before that first fry, or you will have a mess on your hands. Home deep fryers don't have the capacity of resto equipment; so you really need dry ingredients to prevent a boil over.

    February 7, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  18. Arturo Féliz-Camilo


    February 7, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  19. Curt

    Man... Some "cooks" in this world... Are just heart attack creationists.

    February 7, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • NaCl Overkill

      Some people can't seem to wrap their heads around the word "moderation" or the phrase "self-control." Do you think that, just because it's published or advertized that everyone will lose their minds and gorge on the featured item? Only people with those tendencies think that way.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:27 am |
  20. die die

    fries and chocolate?! ......... must try!

    February 7, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • NaCl Overkill

      The first time I witnessed my grandson dip a McD's french fry into his chocolate shake, I almost lost my lunch. I forbid him from ever doing that in front of me again. Later that day, I apologized and asked him to warn me next time so I could look away. I can't imagine mixing potatoes & chocolate, one of my favorite treats these days is salted dark chocolate.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:17 am |
      • CN Red

        Nothing like Wendy's fries dipped in their chocolate frosty. Mouth-gasm.

        February 8, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • Jack

      Add bacon and beer and you're in heaven!!

      February 9, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  21. Ieat

    how about sweet potato fries? It's a healthier take on French Fries!

    February 7, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • dominique

      Sweet potatoes are often regarded as a healthier alternative but the potato and the sweet potato are seemingly very similar when you study their molecular profile and nutrition value.

      February 7, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
      • burns

        I HATE sweet potatoes. Orange trash.

        February 8, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • NaCl Overkill

      Mmmm. Outback's sweet potato french fries are delicious. I ask for no honey glaze, cuz I like 'em crispy.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:25 am |
  22. Venice Rembold

    There was no mention of slicing the potatoe into sticks. Do we fry the potatoe whole?

    February 7, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • dominique

      Yes, peel the potato and cut them into 1/4 x 1/4 strips of equal length.

      February 7, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Bridget

      In the directions it says cut the potato into batons....batons is French for stick

      February 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  23. Noam

    #5 sounds awesome and total work time is probably 5 to 10 minutes, the rest is just letting the circulator do its job. And the results are probably incredible.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  24. Kathleen

    That #5 method is horrible sounding. Two hours of preparation for french fries? Oh, come on. Even I have more of a life than that!

    February 7, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • dominique

      Patience is a virtue. :) the recipe is quite time consuming but it is worth it.

      February 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • thetruth

      No you don't. Stop lying to yourself

      February 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Roberto

      I'm really glad most people haven't figured out the joys and ease of sous vide and have that attitude, it makes those of us with sous vide set ups shine all the more when we show perfect 2 hr steaks, 48 hr ribs, 1 hr scallops and now apparently 2 hr french fries... now Dominique (beautiful name, you share it with my daughter) my question is: where do I find duck fat in enough quantity to do this? I've made duck confit (sous vide, of course... is there any other way?) but that required only 3 tsps of the stuff.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  25. Truth™

    I'd eat that!

    February 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Jerv

      And the fries, right?

      February 8, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • Peeking@Dominique

      Sooooo Yummy! mmMMmmMMmmMMmm the fries look decent too

      February 8, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
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