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.)
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.
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.
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
- 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.