Life in a Restaurant, Week 33 - How to Make 22 Quarts of Frites on a Mild Sunday Afternoon


"French fries kill more people than guns and sharks, yet nobody's afraid of French fries."

-Robert Kiyosaki


On Sundays when we start serving burgers for a more family oriented crowd, and said burgers are so stinkin delicious that you don’t care you’ve had Valrhona chocolate brownies for dinner yesterday and are about to have an obscene burger (some days topped with pickled mushrooms, bacon, chive aioli, and other days with charred miso, white cheddar, and a gloopy egg) for lunch today, the fact is none of those two previous food mentions matter because you’ll also equally eat your weight in french fries.

Perhaps they’re so ingrained into the memories of our tongue that we forget how good fries should taste like salt and sweetened earth. They should obviously be crisp, otherwise you wouldn’t deal with deep fat frying, but the delicate outer skin of each frite should blister and crinkle like a paper thin cracker; the insides fluffy and soft like feathers of a pillow.

(You sometimes catch yourself calling them frites because saying you made fries today sounds like you work at a fast food joint and not a nice New American—as categorized by the much maligned Yelp—restaurant. But I’ll stop digressing, and get back to the point of how to make fries. Not substitutive baked fries, but the real addictive ones that are the breaker of every steady diet.)

Of course, all simple pleasures in life tend to be the most tedious to make. Grab your purple netted sack of kennebec potatoes. (We were once accidentally sent yukon golds, resulting in soggy chips I imagine are akin to the chips sitting under a piece of fried haddock at a 2AM street stall over in Britain.) These are the perfect fry potato.

Piercing each potato with your mandoline guard because you’ve now developed a phobia of mandolines, slice them fervently into around ¼ inch planks. When you think you’ve sliced enough, slice more, as they shrink throughout the cooking progress and you’ll be surprised how many fries both you and the dining room will consume throughout the day. Stack your planks, grab your knife, and cut into thick juliennes, and into a huge 22 quart cambro of cold water they go.

Drain them, and bring a huge pot of water to a boil, seasoned heavily with salt and spiked viciously with vinegar. (Read this to learn why, in a manner more effective than I would ever be able to explain). Blanch them for a minute or two until they no longer feel slimy.

Submerge them back in a cambro of new water to cool them down and also to rinse off anymore of the internal starch that would cause them to brown before getting crisp. Drain, and fry in small batches at 375 degrees for a quick 30-45 seconds, until blistered. Take them out and let them cool on towels to drain away all the oil, and store them in your lowboy until ready. Continue the process until you go through all 22 quarts of kennebec potatoes.

When an order for steak frites or a burger comes in, fry a charitable handful for a few minutes – they come out looking slightly bent and battered as if they’ve gone limp, but as you dump them in a bowl with an unselfish amount of salt, you’ll hear the conspicuous rattle of their crunchy outsides as they bounce and ricochet against metal and Maldon.

Snack on them relentlessly because you’re somewhat grouchy at how much effort and time they took to prepare, alongside a ramekin of aioli flavored with burnt miso, or ketchup spiked with both hoisin and sriracha. Or my personal favorite, take a bowl of recently crisped fries, and enrobe them in ladle of the infamous demi glace, add a slice of truffled gouda, and melt under the broiler, before dressing with italian salsa verde for a bourgeois variant of disco fries.