Test Kitchen: Horse Fat? + The New Perfect French Fries
Farid Zadi New Perfect French Fries
No one knows who invented French fries, although most food experts agree that deep fried potato strips were almost certainly invented in Belgium or France. There is a popular internet meme about a Belgian journalist who allegedly documented the existence of fried potatoes in the Spanish Netherlands in 1680, but the original manuscript is elusive.
Regardless of who invented fried potatoes, the French definitely have the most knife cuts for them, five total, ranging in size from the one millimeter to one centimeter, and those are just the stick shapes. We prefer the one centimeter pont neuf cut (approximately 3/8" thick) for these new perfect French fries we've created. The size holds up well using our method: blanch, smash and fry again.
The classic French and Belgian method for fries calls for double-frying, and is the method taught in culinary schools all over the world, alongside numerous newer techniques: starting the fries in cold oil, triple-cooking, freezing par-cooked fries, starch infused fries, pectinase soaked fries, and even ultra-sonic fries. All of these methods involve rinsing off surface starch and dehydrating the cut fries for crispy fries. Some incorporate techniques to make the surface more porous for extra-crispy fries.
There are many debates about the appropriate types of fat. Jeffrey Steingarten created an internet sensation with his preference for horse fat fries.
According to Harold McGee:
The general flavor of horse may also be different enough from beef and pork to add something unusual and enriching to the fried flavor. As for the texture of the fries: horse fat isn't so different from other animal fats as to do something different to the structure of the fried potato, either crust or interior. So I think horse-fat fries come out well because the people doing the cooking in horse fat are clearly obsessives and making sure they do the best they can with this rare ingredient!
Growing up in France, we saw plenty of horse meat butcher shops (boucheries chevalines), but never observed potatoes, or anything else for that matter, being cooked in horse fat. The only thing really missing by not using horse fat is the flavor of horse, which actually tastes a lot like beef. Besides, we prefer animal fats for sautéed potatoes. For deep frying we use vegetable or peanut oil.
Sunflower oil is the most commonly used fat for fries in France. If you like your fries extra crispy with lots of crunchy bits, you might try this recipe.