Gourmandistan

The tallow of triple-cooked chips

Triple-cooked chips

It is said that desire is the cause of all suffering. If that is indeed true, we must say Heston Blumenthal has not helped us as we work toward Buddhahood. But he did help us attain the best fries Gourmandistan has ever made.

Steve obtained a bag of beef suet during the waning days of our nearby Foxhollow Farm store, with the specific intent of rendering it down for tallow, then forcing Michelle to make French fries with the stuff. Ever since McDonald’s abandoned its beef tallow, Gourmandistan has often wondered if beef fat really made a difference. (Risking our status as food snobs, we confess we would probably scarf down a pile of McFries if they were placed in front of us right now, beef-tallowed or not.) Using the techniques he mastered making lard, Steve separated out sinew and silverskin, rendered down his suet, strained off the resulting yellowish fat and stored it in a jar, where it became interestingly stiff and waxlike even at room temperature. (You can actually make candles with it. But we’re a food blog, not a craft blog.)

Beef tallow

No, that’s not ice cream.

To make our fries we turned to Heston Blumenthal, the father of triple-cooked chips, to try and recreate the experience we’d enjoyed last fall at The Three Tuns in Hay-on-Wye, sadly without the beer-battered cod. We understand that triple-cooked chips are now quite trite in Britain but, like universal healthcare, are something that needs to catch on in the States.

Potatoes

Use the brown ones, not the red ones.

Blumenthal’s recipe (or at least this one we found attributed to him on Epicurious), calls for potatoes chipped, cooked, frozen, cooked, cooled and cooked again. He also calls for “Maris Piper” potatoes, which we’ve never heard of nor seen in America. Not having access to McDonald’s patented potato, we substituted a russet variety and hoped for the best. It was quite a bit of work, and may not have matched the McDonald’s salty matchsticks of our youth, but our “chips” came out quite fine. The tallow melted into hot golden fat, well handling two batches of potato pieces and producing tasty, crispy bits with delightfully fluffy centers. It’s almost needless to say we enjoyed them very, very much, especially with a sprinkling of rosemary salt.

Triple-cooked chips

The flavor did indeed seem richer and more robust than canola or other neutral oil. Was it the best fry oil ever? It may mean extra work (mainly for Michelle) and we may need some guests, but someday Gourmandistan would like to try a side-by-side triple-cooked chip comparison between beef tallow and duck fat. We’ll keep you posted.

TRIPLE-COOKED CHIPS WITH ROSEMARY SALT

(adapted from Heston Blumenthal, here and here)

  • Russet or other fairly starchy potatoes
  • Neutral oil or beef tallow
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp. sea salt

Peel potatoes and cut into chips, about 3/4″ x 3/4″ x 2-1/2″ in size.  Place the chips in a bowl under running water for several minutes to wash the starch off.

Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer until the chips are almost falling apart, about 20 minutes.

Remove the cooked chips from the water with a slotted spoon. Set them on a cooling rack to dry out. Once cooled a bit, place the rack with the potatoes on it in the freezer for at least 1 hour.

Heat about 4″ of fat in a heavy saucepan to 265° F. Fry the chips in small batches for approximately 5 minutes, until a light crust forms. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Put the potatoes back on the cooling rack. Return to the freezer for at least 1 hour.

Dry rosemary sprig in a 200° F oven for about 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool. Strip leaves from stem. Mash leaves with salt in a mortar and pestle.

Strain out any solids that accumulated in the oil.  Then reheat the oil to 350° F. Fry the chips in small batches until golden. Drain on a cooling rack and sprinkle with rosemary salt.

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34 comments

  1. Oooo. These are wonderful. Yes, a bit more work but I wouldn’t mind a little extra effort for the sake of the best fries Gourmandistan has ever made! And thank you for the rosemary salt idea! We make rosemary aioli for fries and after reading about your rosemary salt I imagine that is really all you need. Mmmm, triple cooked duck fat chips…staying tuned.

    • Oooh, rosemary aioli sounds like a great idea. Before we went to England last fall, I always said “I hate thick fries.” But little did I realize that there was something besides those godawful frozen “steak fries” you get in crappy restaurants all over the U.S.!

  2. They look like great chips! I think tallow candles smell quite bad.
    Have you read Jeffrey Steingarten’s chapter on Fries in The Man Who Ate Everything? He recommends horse fat, along with tallow. So far I haven’t knowingly eaten them cooked in horse fat, but I’d be first in the queue if I heard of a chip shop using it in London. Apparently Belgium is the place to get them 😉

    • I have that book, but haven’t looked at it in years. Somehow, though, now that you say it, I think I remember that. And Steve would be right there in line with you. 🙂

      • Excellent! Chips cooked in lard or beef dripping were very popular in in Britain, especially in the north, but I believe most have switched to vegetable oil these days, which is a great shame, since they really are better cooked in animal fat 🙂

  3. Wow. Those fries are quite a lot of work; I had heard of parboiling, but not of freezing! In any case they both look and sound delicious. Here in Lille, les frites are an institution! We use a very starchy Dutch variety of potatoes called Bintje, and it yields excellent chips, soft on the inside and nice and cruchy on the outside. We only fry them twice though, but I’ve never used suet (though many people here do, they even sell cartons of “graisse de boeuf” at supermarkets, which are far from appealing). I’ll ask the lady at our Friday-night frites joint how she makes hers (which are absolutely amazing), maybe between you and her I’ll give suet a try some day 🙂

    • Well, Steve loves his experiments with animal fats. 🙂 I wish that Americans would take potato varieties more seriously. It’s really hard, even at the farmers’ markets, to find more than just russet or fingerling or red… Fries are something that are best left to a restaurant kitchen, I think. But, while we get lots of great skinny ones, we seldom find the thick British type done well here.

  4. I never heard of that potato variety….anyway Gourmandistan must be honored for making such triple efforts in the name of the perfect French frie! Wish I could have tasted some right away from that parchment paper! (and yes, I was looking for that ice cream recipe at first when I scrolled down the photos ;-))

    • Thanks, Misti. Before I went to Britain last year, I had this stupid idea that “chips” were like those godawful frozen “steak fries” one finds everywhere in the States. Boy was I wrong!

  5. You folks take your french fries seriously! I remember reading Steingarten’s chapter on the perfect fries and thinking, “Who would go to so much trouble?!” Now I know . . . 😉

  6. Ugh. Just ugh. If only I lived close enough to participate in taste-testing… When I opened this post in my email and read just the title, I knew it was going to be a good post. You two didn’t disappoint—you never do—but you *did* manage to make me awfully hungry.

      • Just realized that comment reads strangely. (The hazard of dashing off something without thinking about it.) I meant to say it wasn’t the Gravatar I was accustomed to seeing. Great photo!

  7. Excellent. There is no doubt that beef dripping makes the difference. Lovely photos as always. AsI grew up, we always had a bowl of it in the press, creamy on top and the hard bits of crispy stuff stuck in a gelatine like layer in the base of the bowl.

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