Belgian Fries
January 4, 2012 8:09 PM   Subscribe

If you don’t use the right potatoes, the right oil, and the right fryers, well, you get french fries. And that’s the reason you don’t find Belgian fries anywhere.

In the eight years since its last appearance on MetaFilter, The One and Only Belgian Fries web site has increased its dominance as The World's Greatest Belgian Fries Website.
posted by Trurl (113 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cook's Illustrated did a feature on this type of thing, we tried it and confirmed that little things do matter when it comes to putting out a consistent style of fry.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:16 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


A colleague of mine from Europe claims that North American house voltage just can't make oil hot enough to make proper fries, and that anything less than 220 volts is inadequate.

I have no way to validate this, but there you go.
posted by mhoye at 8:18 PM on January 4, 2012


Later this month I get to go to Belgium and there will certainly be Trappist Ales and fries in my future there. CAN'T WAIT.
posted by mathowie at 8:20 PM on January 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


On Horse Fat, Fries, and Harold McGee

Cooking Issues: The Quest for French Fry Supremacy, who seems to prefer the 'blanch, dry, fry, fry' technique.

The Alcoholian: Pacific Cod Fish and Chips, which detail's McGee's take on fries.

The secret appears to be the potato selection, proper cross-section, and the blanch (or at least rinse) and double fry.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:21 PM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Give me chip shop style chunky chips any day. With gravy.
posted by arcticseal at 8:22 PM on January 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wasabi-sake honey mustards sounds interesting. He should make aoli and something like dijon-mayo-cracked black pepper as well.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:22 PM on January 4, 2012


mhoye I can get oil in excess of 500 def F on my range - and its nothing special. They may be referring to standalone fryers, but they are probably fine.

I prefer cast iron, as it retains the heat better.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:24 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Your range, if electric, is plugged into the same 220-240 volt power the lucky Europeans have throughout their homes.

I bet you're right that the colleague is talking about a device that plugs into the wall and sits on the counter.
posted by fritley at 8:26 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Call them what you will, they all taste like chips.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:29 PM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


the man of twists and turns, are you doing fries in a cast iron dutch oven? what kind of oil are you using?
posted by HuronBob at 8:29 PM on January 4, 2012


Belgian fries...
Belgian waffles...

Now I want some waffle fries from Chick-fil-A.

Damn you Belgium!!!
posted by GavinR at 8:37 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Battered and double-fried "clam shack" fries. With white vinegar and sea-salt as the condiments. New England is rolling up its sleeves and glaring at YOU, Belgium.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:39 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I LIKE McDonald's French fries, and I am not ashamed.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:43 PM on January 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


Belgians are known for fried potatoes, waffles, Tintin, and for being the de facto capital of the European Union. Tintin was good.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:50 PM on January 4, 2012


The is an evidently quite well known belgian fry cart in Portland (whose name I can't remember) that is run by a high school friend of mine.

I really want to try those fries.
posted by flaterik at 8:54 PM on January 4, 2012


wish I liked Belgian beer; it would be nice to open one with these fries, but I can count on one hand the number of Belgian beers I have ever enjoyed.

Credibility: shattered
posted by exogenous at 8:56 PM on January 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


"I LIKE McDonald's French fries, and I am not ashamed."

You shouldn't be—their fries are very good, pretty much the only thing on their menu that doesn't seem like a facsimile of food.

I truly love fries, in many different incarnations, and I have a very strong feeling that I'd be infatuated with Belgian fries. I wish I could try some.

The Belgian fries website guy mentions that they shouldn't include the peels, like you find in NA and Ireland (according to him), but that it's probably healthier that way. Actually, it's not. There may be some nutrients on the peel that aren't in the flesh of the potato, but there's also the toxins that the nightshade family is infamous for (glycoalkaloids). It's pretty rare for people to be poisoned by potatoes, but it does regularly happen. Normally the toxin concentration isn't very high, but sufficiently stressed potatoes can have high enough concentrations to sicken or even kill people.

Looking at Wikipedia just now, I see that it's not just the peel—it's concentrated on/near the surface and a green tint below the peel is a sign of high glycoalkaloid concentrations. It also mentions that this makes the potato bitter, which helps reduce the number of people who would otherwise blithely eat such a potato.

I've never had good results when trying to make fries at home. I've always assumed that to do it right one needs a deep fryer. It might be for the best—I'd probably live on fries exclusively, given the chance.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:57 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I lived in Belgium when I was a child. I was in kindergarten. Every day they would march us little tikes off to the lunch room, feed us mussels or cheese, and give us beer to drink. I shit you not.

I'm sure that they took most of the alcohol out of the beer, but I've often wondered how much my childhood in Belgium has influenced my adulthood.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:59 PM on January 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


Credibility: shattered

If you like Leffe, beware of clicking the "spoiler" link below.

Heh. I ruined Leffe beer for my brother. It was once his favorite. I had it a few times at his house, and the aroma of it was intensely familiar, but I couldn't place it for the longest time. I finally figured out what it was though. Leffe beer smells exactly like (spoiler). Once I figured it out, I asked my brother if he wanted to know what I had found out about Leffe, warning him that it seriously might ruin it for him. Curiousity got the best of him, and, heh, he doesn't like it anymore. Oh well.
posted by smcameron at 9:08 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not what I consider a 'dutch oven' as it has a long handle instead of two short round ones, but it is about the same size and shape. I use peanut oil, or vegetable oil.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:12 PM on January 4, 2012


This is a plot to get the get the US to switch to the Euro, I'm sure of it.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:12 PM on January 4, 2012


something something freedom (rare but regular).
posted by IvoShandor at 9:16 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


smcameron: omg you're right about the Leffe. Thankfully I never liked that horrible watery pish anyway. There is precisely one beer I enjoy that comes from Belgium, and it's this one. I notice they also make cheese! All of these things are good.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:18 PM on January 4, 2012


Bel Frites in San Luis Obispo makes excellent fries ostensibly in the Belgian style served with a selection of eight or so dipping sauces and imported Belgian beers. I highly recommend it as the destination after a long hike. I pretty much only eat fries if there is a spicy peanut sauce to dip them in.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:58 PM on January 4, 2012


If only there were some place in San Francisco (preferably the mission) where we could have a meetup with Belgian beer and fri..ok fine I'll just shut up.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 10:13 PM on January 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Frjtz! Frjtz!
USA
USA

ok, I'll really shut up now.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 10:14 PM on January 4, 2012


What are you guys doing to me. I accepted the fact That I am not going to get Belgian fries at this time of night, now you go and bring up McDonalds?
posted by Ad hominem at 10:17 PM on January 4, 2012


Since there's been some discussion of methods, here's a good method:
-cut russet potatoes into potato-length fry shapes slightly thicker than mcdonalds
-drop them in heavily salted boiling water for 5 minutes (with a big splash of white vinegar, which stops the potatoes from disintegrating)
-drain, cool with cold water, then drain again and dry by laying on paper towels
-heat 3 inches of peanut oil to 360 degrees, then add the potatoes
-leave until the first signs of golden-browning (5-10 minutes), then remove from oil and wrap in paper towels to absorb the oil and cool to room temperature. at this stage they should be fairly limp.
-reheat oil to 360 degrees, add potatoes
-leave until golden and crispy, anywhere from 3-6 minutes. Keep in mind that they will soften after you remove them, so err on the side of crispy. Remove from oil and wrap in paper towels to absorb the oil.
-unwrap, salt, serve.

I wouldn't call it belgian, but I would call it delicious.
posted by gonna get a dog at 10:24 PM on January 4, 2012 [17 favorites]


There is a chip stand on every corner in this town, and they certainly have a certain greasy charm, but it's true I've never had a Belgian fry outside of Belgium.

I don't know what they use these days, but when I lived there in my teens (late 80s), they used beef tallow. I'd thought it was because tallow has a high smoke point, but googling tells me there are plenty of veg oils with higher ones. It must just be for the deliciousness of it. That's why the McDonalds fries of my childhood were a million times better than their fries today, too.
posted by looli at 10:42 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been to that place in the Mission, and I was unimpressed. Maybe I should try it again? Any Belgians care to comment on the authenticity?

I admit I went into the place with certain expectations, based entirely on a belgian pub in Perth we used to frequent that had fantastic fries. However, reading the description from the links they were too thin to be proper Belgian frites apparently?

And I am willing, in the name of eating fries science, to try out any other Belgian fry places in the greater bay area people would care to suggest...

hint hint
posted by inparticularity at 10:54 PM on January 4, 2012


There's actually a place called Belgian Fries not far from me. Sadly I think they closed an hour ago.
posted by mannequito at 10:54 PM on January 4, 2012


The fries at Wurstkuche in Los Angeles claim to be Belgian. I have never been to Belgium, but the fries at WK can be pretty amazing. Definitely better than about any other fry in town. (Though I have a soft spot in my heart for poutine from the Frysmith food truck)
posted by thedaniel at 11:08 PM on January 4, 2012


I worked for a short time making fries in Brugge. I have never, since, been able to make fries as good.

So, there you go.
posted by pompomtom at 11:16 PM on January 4, 2012


Haven't found anything in Seattle, yet, but if you're in Philadelphia, hit up Monk's Cafe or Nodding Head for Belgian fries. In Montreal, head to Frite Alors!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:19 PM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wurstkuche is uh-mazing.
Also excellent are the reportedly authentic belgian fries at The Oinkster. I can't speak to their authenticity, but they are freaking delish.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:21 PM on January 4, 2012


Haven't found anything in Seattle, yet

You won't find anything since Frites closed. Try Frjtz in San Francisco.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:28 PM on January 4, 2012


Frjtz has become a sort of in-joke among Bay Area Mefites. A few years ago there was a string of meetups at Frjtz and everyone wondered why we only had meetups at Frjtz. So now, whenever there's a meetup thread, someone will sarcastically suggest Frjtz. THE JOKE PART IS THAT IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO GET TIRED OF FRJTZ.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:36 PM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know, none of you are cool enough to admit that poutine is the future.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:52 PM on January 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


I will also comment about the amazingness of Chick-fil-a fries. They're just.. really good. And with the polynesian dipping sauce, zomgs.

Five Guys also does fresh-cut style fries very well. They make a big deal about it, with bags of potatoes lining the inside of the stores. They taste fresh, and they practically dump like 4 servings in your bag when you order a regular.

and sorry, I just don't get McDonald's fries. they taste like fried paper.
posted by ninjew at 11:54 PM on January 4, 2012


I have a Belgian friend who lives in Canada and who hates poutine. Apparently it's too soggy compared to the very crisp Belgian fries.

Also, not fries but very Belgian, and an absolute must in Pittsburgh. I lived in Belgium for two (non-consecutive) years and these guys hit Liège waffles on the head:

Waffallonia
posted by dhens at 11:56 PM on January 4, 2012


My dad told me that the first French fries were made in Greece.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:48 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yum. Greek Fries. Feta.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:03 AM on January 5, 2012


My dad told me that the first French fries were made in Greece.

With a side of Turkey?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:16 AM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm getting Hungary.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:22 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You have never had a better fry than you can get at de Belg Waterloo. I guarantee it.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:46 AM on January 5, 2012


I'm going to be in Brussels for an hour and a half each way when I go to Amsterdam in a fortnight. Any recommendations for fries near Brussels Midi or (if there's time given the 90000000 tourists) between there and Grand Place? I'm going to pick up a beer to take home, but I might have time to get some fries from a stand if not long enough to sit down and eat.
posted by mippy at 1:54 AM on January 5, 2012


Also: I have no idea why, but I get irritated by people referring to french fries as 'chips'. Chips are not the same!
posted by mippy at 1:55 AM on January 5, 2012


Chips are not the same!

Chips are crisps!
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 2:04 AM on January 5, 2012


Any recommendations for fries near Brussels Midi?

Don't focus on the fries. Get the mussels. There are places near there. The fries come as a side dish.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:07 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seconding Monk's Cafe in Philly. Great vegetarian cheesesteaks (blasphemy!) too. In addition to a massive selection of beers they have a house beer that is imported from Belgium, a Flemish Sour Ale. Probably the hardest Belgian style to aquire a taste for, but so so good once you do.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:41 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been trying to get my chips right for some time. I'm talking British chips here. American french fries are the skinny little cousin that sits like a pile of kindling next to a burger. Belgian fries are somewhere in the middle, having the mechanical uniformity of the french fry, but at least having a bit of thickness so that there's a contrast between the crisp outer shell and the soft potato within. The British chip is fatter still, less uniform in colour, and not afraid to be shaped like a chunk of potato; it's probably the hardest to pull off. The platonic ideal of a British chip is a lofty being.

My chips are getting a lot better, but I've still got a long way to go.

The selection of potato is pretty crucial, and it's possible to get wildly different results from different batches of the same variety. I've made good chips with good old King Edwards at a pinch, but the classic Maris Piper has probably been the most consistent. The selection process doesn't stop there. You've really don't want a potato with a high water content (water is the enemy of crispy). Storing the potatoes for as long as you can at room temperature seems to help. My heart sinks when I cut open a potato and it immediately gushes water; there's not much you can do at that stage except make mashed potato instead.

You can really make chips as big as you want. A local (fairly) fancy restaurant I frequent offers a side dish of their 'special chips' which are an inch on a side, and stacked like a half-played Jenga game. The chips are pretty good, impressive because the bigger the chip, the harder it is to get it right.

So, anyway, I've decided that, if I have to cook them more than twice, or if I have to cook them two different ways, they're not the chips for me. I have two children and a wife who love home-fried fish and chips once a week, but it's got to be a practical undertaking; I don't have a sous-chef. So here's what I've learned so far:

1. You've got to start with dry, raw chips made from potatoes that don't have too much water in them to begin with. I put a few sheets of kitchen roll in a big bowl and shake the uncooked chips around a handful at a time. Then I leave them laid out somewhere warmish for half an hour for any visible surface moisture to evaporate. A matte chip is ready to cook.

2. Next, fry them at a low temperature (as low as 150C / 300F). At this temperature you're not going to colour the chips for a good long time, and you don't want to. This is roughly equivalent to parboiling the chips, which for me is too much hassle. Agitate the basket gently from time to time to ensure that the chips don't stick together in pairs, as they seem to enjoy. The danger with a potato that is too 'floury' is that it will break up during this stage, or will soften too much and absorb too much oil, leading to over-greasy chips. I have a deep fryer, which is the safest way to fry, but I leave the lid up. So much steam is released during cooking that I'd rather just let it all escape than trust the lid on the deep fryer to cope with it, so I leave the lid up. I use sunflower oil. I'd use a big vat of beef fat if I could, but there are limits to what my wife will put up with.

3. Take the chips out as soon as they're cooked all the way through, but while they're still uncoloured. Dry them as best you can. They need to rest and cool a bit while you get the oil nice and hot for cooking part 2. Time to turn the oil up pretty high (190C / 375F). If you want to, you can refrigerate these part-cooked chips and use them later; just put them in a bowl on top of a few sheets absorbent kitchen roll and they'll wait happily for a few hours.

4. On to the second frying. In go the chips. Keep them moving about while they cook, as this will help them to crisp up evenly; there's nothing worse than a chip with one side uncooked, like a sunbather who forgot to turn over. I tend to keep going until the chips go past the golden stage and start to become piebald with little splodges of brown.

5. Remove, shake, deal with any excess oil, and serve with salt and vinegar. Malt vinegar first, then salt. The other way round is blasphemy. If the gods of frying have been smiling, you'll have perfect chips with a crispy shell and fluffy steaming potato inside.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:49 AM on January 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


twoleftfeet - I won't have time to sit and eat. I doubt moules are available to take away.
posted by mippy at 2:53 AM on January 5, 2012


Any recommendations for fries near Brussels Midi

My recommendation: don't stay around Brussels Midi. That neighbourhood is notoriously ugly and crime-ridden. If you have the time, take the light rail ("pre-Metro") lines 3 or 4 to "de Brouckère" station (four stops further north) and visit the Grand Place. There's "Fritland" in the neighbourhood, behind the stock exchange. It's rather despised by the locals as a tourist trap, but it probably offers the best approximation to Belgian fries in the area. If you had more time, the most reputed "friteries" in Brussels are probably "Maison Antoine" (quite bizarrely in the middle of the EU area) and Frit'Flagey. Long queues in both, mind you.

Also, no article on Belgian fries should go without mentioning the terrifying "mitraillette".
posted by Skeptic at 3:24 AM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hate to brag, but the best fries I have ever tasted were the ones I made myself when working in a snackbar when I was still nominally a student a decade or so ago. Unlike most fast food joints we got our potatoes fresh, scrubbed and sliced them ourselves, then fried them. We used a two stage deep fat frier, where you'd dump a load of chips in the first oven, fried until they floated to the top, then took them out, shake properly to get rid of access fat, then left them to dry. The second stage then finished them off and took only minutes if that. Using the proper temperatures > 180 degrees centigrade you get fries that are crisp on the outside, but still somewhat fluffy on the inside and, most importantly not saturated with fat. Lovely the fries were and golden oh oh.

Of course, the real secret to making good fries is that actually, it's not that hard, as long as you use a decentish potato, make sure your fat or oil is hot enough and not polluted. What kind of potato, what kind of cooking medium, the exact ways to prepare them are just minor details.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:38 AM on January 5, 2012


There are Thrasher's from the Eastern Shore that come closer than most. Thick fries and vinegar is encouraged.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:39 AM on January 5, 2012


A mitraillette isn't that scary; not compared to a kapsalon.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:41 AM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I LIKE McDonald's French fries, and I am not ashamed.

You shouldn't be! You are the guy who likes brick-oven pizzas with hand-thrown dough, topped by artisanal cheeses and a sauce made from heirloom tomatoes. Who can also appreciate an occasional delivery from Domino's.

This extends everywhere in food: Jones and Coca-Cola. Beef burgers and buffalo burgers. Hersheys chocolate (on S'mores only please) and Valrhona.

There is no reason to be ashamed.
posted by whatzit at 3:41 AM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


In this thread I learned that Brits call paper towels "kitchen roll".
posted by Night_owl at 3:54 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like Five Guys fries even though they get a lot of things wrong. It's something about that mix of grease and starch in such a limp potatoey package that makes all things feel okay. Not good, but okay. The cajun fries are nasty, though.

Otherwise, I think fast food fries are just okay. Nathan's has a similar thing to Five Guys going on, Wendy's are a weak imitation of fries at a good restaurant made with care, haven't tried the new Burger King ones yet, and McDonald's fries lack that light crunch and creamy interior I like. They're dry and too crispy. Chick-Fil-A's fries are good for waffle fries (but they go for a different texture than your typical fry), but I don't eat there anymore since I learned how anti-gay and anti-choice the company can be. Arby's curly fries are the best thing in the store, and I'm not saying that to complain about the rest of their menu (which is admittedly kind of mediocre and unsettling with their rebuilt meat), but not really the style of fries you'd compare to Belgian Fries.

Anyway, I once had Belgian fries at Frjtes in San Francisco. They were really good, but there's not really any place serving them near me that I know of.

Of course, I'm on a low-carb diet so I'm avoiding fries to I remember them more fondly, and I'm not that big on covering fries in ketchup unless they're not very good, so I guess I taste the fries more. Good mayo is a great condiment, though.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:57 AM on January 5, 2012


The Belgians do three things better than anyone else in the world:

Beer, Chocolate and Fries
posted by AndrewKemendo at 3:57 AM on January 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Skeptic - I have about an hour and a half going there (in the morning) and about an hour on my return (early evening) so I was planning to go to De Brouckere anyway to get some breakfast food from a supermarket on the way to Amsterdam, and wander round for a while rather than sit in the station. Good to know there's somewhere to go on my return - I pretty much have time to get off the train, travel to Grand Place, take a couple of snaps of the square at night and head back. I heard the area around Midi was nasty, though if I'd had more time I would have gone to Jeu de Balle to look round the flea market.

There are a few recommendations for chocolatiers I found on the internet, but if they aren't too far away for me to get to, they are part of chains that have outlets in London. So fries seem the way to go in terms of Belgian scoff. Though I'm possibly going to MeatLiquor at lunch which may ruin fries forever.

My friend insists that chips are not chips unless they're done in lard.
posted by mippy at 4:20 AM on January 5, 2012


The mitralette looks like a fancy chip roll.
posted by mippy at 4:22 AM on January 5, 2012


paper towels "kitchen roll".

Yes it is. Paper towel is used too from time to time, but really, 'towel'? Surely something of an overstatement. Do you call lavatory paper 'paper flannel'? Get a grip man!
posted by howfar at 4:27 AM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: We like simple and excellent things
posted by Tom-B at 4:31 AM on January 5, 2012


I'm going to be in Brussels for an hour and a half each way when I go to Amsterdam in a fortnight.

You can get decent frites here in Amsterdam. Vleminckx Sausmeesters in the Voetboogstraat is excellent, and easily found due to the lengthy queue outside. Spend the extra money for the belgian sauces.
posted by daveje at 4:34 AM on January 5, 2012


I am no joke.
posted by frjtz at 4:49 AM on January 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm trying to do a low carb thing and you're all making it very difficult.
posted by h00py at 5:01 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just dropping in to note that "french fries" are called that not because they are from France but because they are "french cut", i.e. thin slices. So I scanned TFA hoping to find some new fry shape with a cutting technique known as "belgian" but instead found frenched fries. :(
posted by DU at 5:02 AM on January 5, 2012


"The Belgians do three things better than anyone else in the world:

Beer, Chocolate and Fries"


I'm willing to give you two of three, but as a resident of Portland I know the beer part to be false.
posted by sourbrew at 5:10 AM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, it's so subjective. Let's say all beer that isn't mass produced and is made with love and honour is better than the alternative. Same with the chocolate and the taters.
posted by h00py at 5:15 AM on January 5, 2012


I love Portland beer, and I love Belgian beer, but the only thing they have in common is the word "beer" and a tendency towards high alcohol content. Here's to beer! And frying things.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 5:19 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing that if the taters are hardcore it means I didn't cook them quite long enough first time around.
posted by flabdablet at 5:19 AM on January 5, 2012


Also, why pissfart around with a tendency toward high alcohol content?
posted by flabdablet at 5:22 AM on January 5, 2012


Just dropping in to note that "french fries" are called that not because they are from France but because they are "french cut"

Hmm. Not according to the OED

"French... 3. a. In names of things of actual or attributed French origin, as in...French fried potatoes, potato chips (see chip n.1 2 b); also French fried(s), used absol., and {French fries}...1894 ‘O. Henry’ Rolling Stones (1916) 150 Our countries are great friends. We have given you Lafayette and *French fried potatoes."

While "French" as a verb gives "5.5 Cookery. (See quot.) ? U.S. ... 1895 Standard Dict., French v. To prepare, as a chop, by partially cutting the meat from the shank and leaving bare the bone so as to fit it for convenient handling."

So, "to french" in cooking doesn't mean to julienne, but to expose the bone in a piece of meat. Also, if your etymology were correct, it would seem rather odd that "frenched fried" and "frenched potato" are apparently missing entirely from the Google corpus.

I think this is a case of an appealing idea not borne out by the data, but any contrary information is welcomed.
posted by howfar at 5:48 AM on January 5, 2012


'Paper towels', for many British people, are those sheets of cheap folder paper dispensed in public lavatories, usually of a sort of military green or greyish-blue hue.

'Kitchen paper' is a term I've heard used to describe both 'kitchen towel' and baking parchment.

Domestic paper goods are a topic fraught with misunderstanding, especially when crossing the Atlantic.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:55 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The complaint about the US voltage being wrong is half right and half wrong. 110v certainly CAN get the oil hot enough. What (I assume) they are talking about is recovery rate. Which is how quickly the fryer can bring the oil back up to frying temperature when the potatoes are dumped in. This is affected by the wattage of the heating element and the mass of the oil versus the mass of the stuff being cooked. If you are stuck with an element that can only be 15 amps @ 110 volts, you are stuck with that many watts of heating power. If you over fill the fryer, it won't work right. The solution is to cook in smaller batches.

Commercial fryers generally have significant dead space under the fryer basket that is just oil, which increases the mass ratio.

A super simplified math explanation would be this: If you have a pound of oil at 300 degrees and a pound of potatoes at 50 degrees, when you drop the potatoes in, you have two pounds of stuff at 175 degrees. But if you double the amount of oil, you have three pounds of stuff at 216 degrees. This happens to be a good example, because that means that the oil stays above the boiling point, which means the potatoes are cooking the whole time. Where if the oil has gotten under the boiling point of water, you have X amount of time where very little cooking is being done and the oil is just seeping into your potatoes making them greasy.

So, with a higher wattage element, the time spent at that lower temperature is shorter.

Perfect deep frying is a balance between the hot oil trying to get into the food, and the boiling water inside the food pushing the oil away.
posted by gjc at 6:35 AM on January 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I figure if everything else is low carb, I'm allowed all the homemade fries I want. Do not question me on this.
posted by The Whelk at 6:52 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, none of you are cool enough to admit that poutine is the future.

Disco fries are the future of poutine.

You know it, I know it, and the American people know it.
posted by gauche at 6:54 AM on January 5, 2012


The best frites I've found in North America come from Quebec's Frites Alors!

They're expanding into France now, so they're clearly doing something right.

Franchises available. Which means they have to tell you the secret.

I was thoroughly disappointed when I was walking through Central Park a couple months back, and came across some food truck that was selling "Good Things Belgian", but didn't have either frites OR beer. Bah!
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:02 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Later this month I get to go to Belgium and there will certainly be Trappist Ales and fries in my future there. CAN'T WAIT.

Be warned, though, in my experience in Brussels last year while it was possible to get delicious ales and delicious fries, it was impossible to find an establishment that would give them BOTH to you at the SAME time.

"Do you have fries?"
"Fries??? No! This is a BEER BAR."

Ok, angry waiter! Duly noted!
posted by little cow make small moo at 7:18 AM on January 5, 2012


I've been to Belgium several times and I like Brussles Bistro in Laguna Beach. Belgian chef, Belgian equipment, Belgian foodstuffs, Belgian beer, Belgian atmosphere. 'Nuf said.
posted by stonedcoldsober at 7:26 AM on January 5, 2012


I'm also not the biggest fan of Belgian beer, but I really liked Brugse Zot.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:29 AM on January 5, 2012


So, "to french" in cooking doesn't mean to julienne...

Oh crap, this is just like that "glass is a liquid thing" and "planes fly via bernoulli's principle". You learn something, then you learn a debunk, then you learn the debunk is false and then you can never remember the truth.
posted by DU at 7:30 AM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Be warned, though, in my experience in Brussels last year while it was possible to get delicious ales and delicious fries, it was impossible to find an establishment that would give them BOTH to you at the SAME time.

For that, previously mentioned "Maison Antoine" has an arrangement with the neighbouring bars, allowing you to enter their premises with frites from "Maison Antoine".

(There's probably a good reason why the waiter snarled at your suggestion of serving hot food in his bar. Namely, Belgium has -or had, I'm not quite up-to-date- a ban on smoking in establishments that serve food. Establishments that mainly serve drinks are, or were, exempted. This has caused some interesting legal debates on the size and temperature of the snacks served in bars where smoking is allowed...)
posted by Skeptic at 8:19 AM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah, that makes sense, Skeptic. We kind of figured it was something like that. They all had snacks like Big Plate of Cheese Cubes but that is not what we wanted. I tried the big plate of cheese cubes at a different bar and I can't really think back on it without feeling ill even now.

We toyed with the idea of asking about bringing in outside fries to a bar but were a little bit too cowed from angry waiter to try it.

Someday when I realize my dream of the Icelandic geothermal bath resort where you are served Belgian beers and fries at the same time while looking out at the mountain vistas, and also there are Icelandic horses, this will no longer be an issue.
posted by little cow make small moo at 8:36 AM on January 5, 2012


You learn something, then you learn a debunk, then you learn the debunk is false and then you can never remember the truth.

I believe the condition is known as "Fry's Perambulation".
posted by howfar at 8:41 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


big plate of cheese cubes

My favourite compellingly disgusting francophone cheese cubes to have with booze are 'Apericube', made by processed cheese giant Bel. I find myself strangely drawn to the olive flavour ones in particular. I think this is what that cow is laughing about.
posted by howfar at 8:47 AM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


West Vleteren XII is the best beer in the world, they say. It's one of 4 real abby beers still made in Belgium. I'm never had it yet, but love West Malle, another one of the four. But I am extremely fortunate to have a fabulous sister-in-law who gave me a 6-pack of this very beer, for Christmas. It was the result of the effort of 3 people making the attempt to get one of the special edition packs which came out to finance an addition to the abby. Normally, you can only buy the beer directly from the abby store. I hear some folks are selling their six-pack on e-bay.

See, that's the real Belgium. Beer is taken very seriously.

My (Belgian) partner tells me, in all seriousness, if you want the best fries, you must go to a frituur (fry house), not a restaurant. Have some cheese croquets with those fries, too :-) And I say, seriously, the mayonnaise is very very good, and best applied when the fries are very hot.
posted by Goofyy at 9:46 AM on January 5, 2012


Let the belgians keep their fries, give me a bitterbal !
posted by Pendragon at 9:59 AM on January 5, 2012


Belgian Fries and poutine are not mutually exclusive. If you live in Portland Oregon and have not done yourself the favor...get your ass down there TONIGHT.

(full disclosure, I have a soft spot for Potato Champion because that's where I met my wife...I also have an unhealthy addiction to Poutine)
posted by furnace.heart at 10:07 AM on January 5, 2012


Is this the thread where I post a contentious refinement a/o refutal of some obscure cooking term/process/result, and vehemently defend it entirely with opinion?

I THINK BELGIAN BEER IS BEST SERVED BATTER-DIPPED AND FRIED, LIKE THEY DO AT THE ALABAMA STATE FAIR!!!
posted by IAmBroom at 10:25 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you have bitterballs?

Well, my girlfriend never complained...


Thank you, thank you. Try the veal.

Incidently, anybody coming to Amsterdam really doesn't have to stock up on good beer in Brussels. There are plenty of good beer pubs here that stock both Belgian and other nice beers.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:28 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


And that’s the reason you don’t find Belgian fries anywhere.

What nonsense. If you live in New York City, go down to Pommes Frites on Second Avenue one day. Perfect, authentic Belgian fries to die for, with a huge array of sauces.
posted by monospace at 10:41 AM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes! Pommes Frites on Second Avenue! Yes.
posted by little cow make small moo at 11:40 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mac Donald's used to make their fries that way. In 1964 I worked at a MacDonald's. A truck full of potatoes -- all Idahoes -- would pull up and we would haul the sacks downstairs -- yes, underneath was an area where potatoes were stored. Potatoes were prepped by bringing them upstairs and throwing them into a peeler -- a round drum lined with rough, emery-like stuff. The peeler rotated very fast, water washed through all the time, and the potatoes were soon ready. Then the big Idahoes were put in a slicer that had wire mesh in the bottom. The sliced potatoes went into the sink and were rinsed then sorted into baskets. There were tall stands on wheels that could hold, I don't remember, maybe twenty baskets. These were put in not-so-hot oil, I don't remember the temp, for a set period of time -- about eleven minutes as I recall -- then the baskets went back on the rack. This process was called blanching. There would be a rack of baskets of blanched fries ready all the time. The final frying was done in hot oil for a set time -- there were timers on the fryers -- and then the fries were dumped under the heat light and salted and bagged. Yeah, bags then, you popped them open with your tongs, picked up a tongful, and stuck 'em in. Fifteen cents, recently raised from twelve. When I left, they were experimenting with a metal scoop kind of tool that you put the bag on the end, then ran it into the fry pile.
MacDonald's had a small menu at the time: hambuger/cheeseburger, fries, turnover, fish sandwich, shake but the store was still crowded. The fries took up far more room than anything else (and there was the store space underneath). Management wanted to extend the menu -- we all used to bring lettuce, tomatoes, and fresh onions from home to put on the burgers we made for ourselves -- I expect this was common and noticed by management. They needed more room to store ingredients for the Big Mac or whatever they were going to call it then but (IIRC) it wasn't until the early 70s that MacD found a frozen french fry that they were comfortable substituting for the fresh potato fries. A guy from Manitoba told me that these were developed in Carberry which, for a while anyway, was the fry capitol of the world.
posted by CCBC at 12:43 PM on January 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


West Vleteren XII is the best beer in the world, they say. It's one of 4 real abby beers still made in Belgium.

Well, Abbey beer is a label applied to particular beers, and there are many more than four of them. What you're thinking of are Trappist beers. This is effectively a trademark nowadays, and only seven breweries are authorised to use it. These are Westvleteren, Rochefort, Chimay, Westmalle, Orval, Achel (all in Belgium) and La Trappe/Koningshoeven (in the Netherlands).

Abbey beers attempt to piggyback on the reputation of the Trappist beers, and try to mimic some of the Trappist styles. There's a Certified Belgian Abbey beer logo, which means that the beer has some association with an actual abbey, but this doesn't include everything which is thought of as an abbey beer. The list of certified beers also changes quite often.

In practice, you don't need to worry about this too much. You can have a real Trappist beer like Rochefort 8, or a certified Abbey beer like Affligen (owned by Heineken), or a non-certified Abbey beer like St Bernardus 12, and they're all excellent beers.

Personally, I think Westvleteren 12 is the best beer I've ever tasted, but availability and price have suffered dramatically (even here in Amsterdam) since the American websites started to praise it, and it's now getting very difficult and expensive to source. Happily, there are many other excellent beers which give it a good run for its money. I know I'm cutting my own throat here, but I strenuously recommend the fine products of Brouwerij de Molen, especially the top-end imperial stouts like Rasputin and Hell & Damnation. The lunatics even occasionally age the beers for a time in whisky casks - amazing stuff!
posted by daveje at 12:46 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're quite right, daveje, I'm sure. The other half says so too. I was mistaken a bit, and now I'll have to figure out why I had 4 in my head. (I only learned all the details as result of the gift).

Rochefort 10 is a usual favorite at our house, along with Westmalle tripple. Occasional St. Bernardus, too :-) Chimay now and then. We've enjoyed some La Trappe. And now I have 6 bottles of West Vleteren 12. And an unusually small pair of Trappist glasses. ;-9
posted by Goofyy at 1:41 PM on January 5, 2012


*Googles "mitraillette"*

*reads wiki page*

*experiences enlightenment*

*goes to store for baguettes*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:58 PM on January 5, 2012


This thread is relevant to my interests.
posted by iviken at 2:08 PM on January 5, 2012


It's a date, I WILL be going to Pomme Frites on Saturday (before that birthday party- or after that birthday party- or before AND after that birthday party). But what sauce to get!!!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:38 PM on January 5, 2012


I want to go now :(
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:43 PM on January 5, 2012


Personally I'm not actually that fond of these Trappist/abbey beers, as they tend to be on the strong and heavy side and hit you like a ton of bricks. instead what I've been drinking a lot of over the holidays has been Rodenbach, a red-brown beer that's now owned by the Palm breweries, which has a thin, sour taste with almost no hops to it and only 5% abv. An acquired taste, very different from what seems to be in fashion amongst beerheads, but I like it v. much. It's actually a mixtured of new (75%) and aged (25%) beer ripened in oak barrels. And because it's now owned by a larger commercial brewery, it's widely available outside of specialist beershops.

At least in the Netherlands, that is.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:59 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


And to bring it back on topic, that sour thin taste of Rodenbach helps cut nicely through the fatty, salty taste of proper fries (with mayo of course, we drench them in that shit).
posted by MartinWisse at 3:00 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Un Orval, et une frite carbonnade, le bonheur.
posted by SageLeVoid at 3:10 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of Belgian beer, I'd like to suggest to such styles to anyone with an interest in homebrewing. The bang for the buck is incomparable. For example, I've made a couple of 10 gallon batches along the lines of Gulden Draak (and comparably tasty), each with a "street value" in the neighborhood of $1,000 USD while using about $50 of ingredients. My acquaintance the Mad Fermentationist provides a wealth of information in this regard.
posted by exogenous at 4:00 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I heard MartinWisse likes his beer like he likes his women...
posted by howfar at 4:13 PM on January 5, 2012


In a plastic cup...
posted by MartinWisse at 5:17 PM on January 5, 2012


A red Solo cup... Let's have a party!
posted by Night_owl at 12:28 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


MartinWisse is correct. Trappist beers aren't a good match for Belgian fries: you need something more light and sour. True Brusselers tend to wash their fries down with either a lager like Jupiler, or a lambic, and more specifically a kriek (pretty much an acquired taste). But Rodenbach should make the trick quite nicely.
posted by Skeptic at 12:36 AM on January 6, 2012


But what sauce to get!!!!

Offhand, I'd start with the ordinary Frites sauce (mayo but a bit more tangy). If you want to be authentic, you ask for a 'zakkie met' or 'zakje met', roughly meaning a 'bag with', the 'with' being understood to be with fritessaus.

Personally, I prefer the peanut satay (pindasaus, although there is a separate sataysaus), especially if it's thick and sludgy.

What lets you know that these guys are stone cold pros is option #23, the "war sauce", being fritessaus, pindasaus and raw onion. Literal translation of "zakkie oorlog", which for frites is serious stuff among aficionadoes or the really drunk and hungry.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:28 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Capt. Renault, those are rather Dutch sauces. The Belgians are more inclined towards hottish and rather chemical sauces in fluorescent colours, with names such as "Brazil", "Andalouse", "Banzai" or "Samurai" (no connection whatsoever with Southern Spain, South America or East Asia).
posted by Skeptic at 8:27 AM on January 6, 2012


Ja, maar smaakt lekker, hoor!
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:09 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have traveled to Brussels and absolutely love those fries. It blows my mind how I have never seen an accurate representation of them in the United States. A Belgian waffle and fries shop such as they have near the Grand Place would absolutely dominate a college town's entertainment area!
posted by TheBeerBaron at 8:48 AM on January 24, 2012


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