Cook Like le Chef


French Fries

Written by Caroline SchiffPhotos by Bonnie BriantRecipe inspired by Chefs on MHz Choice


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EDITOR'S NOTE: When I first screened award-winning French drama Chefs, the first, second and third thought I had was, "Man, I sure would love to know what those dishes taste like!" Enter Brooklyn Chef Caroline Schiff. Having spent a year cooking in France, Caroline brings firsthand insight to French cuisine and she has graciously created three recipes inspired by Season 1 of Chefs. I think you'll agree, Caroline deliciously answers my initial question! ~ J.C.

Never underestimate the power of hot oil and potatoes! Moi, j’adore les frites. I can truly say I’m a connoisseur and have been chasing the perfect fry since I was a little girl. Good ones are quite salty, neither too thin or too thick, just oily enough, and have a satisfying crunch that gives way to a fluffy interior.

Originating in neighboring Belgium, fries have their place in so many French venues- cafés, bistrots, fast food joints, brasseries, kebab stands- and this scene illustrates just that. They satisfy deep cravings. After eating at every fancy, schmancy place in Paris, it makes sense that Edouard’s colleague Natacha would want something familiar, simple and satisfying; and I can relate. I’ve been known to indulge in a world class three-star meal only to crave some fries and a grilled cheese hours later.

Preview - Chefs: Season 1 Ep 2

ABOVE: The Chef and staff get back to basics on a dish to impress a high society patron. Chefs now available on MHz Choice!

I remember my grandmother returning from a two week long trip to France when I was about ten years old. I hadn’t been yet and I sat, listening with envy as she regaled me with stories of luxurious dinners, overflowing cheese carts and rich, flakey pastries; but said most of all, she was just thrilled to be home and to have a kosher hot dog off the grill with some mustard. It made sense. The truth is, we like the simple pleasures.

In Season 1, episode 2 of Chefs when Natacha expresses her desires, le Chef indulges them, but not without the Michelin star treatment. He cannot just leave les frites well enough alone with some Heinz Ketchup and some good mayo, which honestly, would be pretty delicious. Instead, he has his brigade go all out to create the most sublime fried pommes des terres, homemade ketchup with a roster of spices and the fluffiest handmade french mayonnaise. It seems unnecessary, but then again, there’s something fun about elevating something so typically lowbrow and giving it the Michelin treatment!

Chefs know that frying fresh frites are a labor of love, but I, like le Chef, also know it’s worth it. And if you don’t let yourself get intimidated by deep frying (there’s nothing to be scared of, trust me), you too can make exquisite brasserie style frites at home. Invite some friends over and enjoy these, either on their own or with a solid steak au proivre.


Recipe: Perfect French Fries

“Les Pomme Frites Parfaits”

Les Pomme Frites Parfaits

Serves 4 as a snack or side dish
Preparation: 1.5 hours
Cooking time: 30 minutes
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For the Frites:
3 quarts of canola oil
5 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ½” wide strips lengthwise, skin on, but if you’re the kind of person who likes to peel potatoes, be my guest.
Kosher salt to taste

For the Mayo:
1 egg yolk
1 tbs dijon mustard
Juice of ½ lemon
1 cup canola oil
Pinch of salt

For the Ketchup:
2 tbs canola oil
4 whole cloves
2 whole allspice
6 whole peppercorns
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic smashed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup champagne or cider vinegar
28 oz tomato puree
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
Pinch cayenne pepper to taste

Process

  1. Make the ketchup: In a saucepan heat the oil over medium heat and add the whole cloves, allspice, mustard seeds and peppercorns, cooking until the spices are fragrant. Carefully remove the cloves, allspice and peppercorns and discard, leaving the mustard seeds.
  1. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and browning lightly. Add the tomato paste and cook until it starts to coat the bottom of the pan. Deglaze with the vinegar, using your spoon or spatula to scrape and incorporate any flavorful brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
  1. Add the tomato puree, brown sugar, salt and a pinch of cayenne and cook until the sauce has reduced by about half and the mixture is thick.
  1. Turn off the heat and puree in a blender until as smooth as possible, and then pass through a fine strainer. Return the smooth ketchup to a clean pan and cook over medium-low heat another ten minutes to draw out any remaining water. Let it cool fully, it will thicken more on its own. This will keep in the fridge for up to 1 month.
  1. Make the mayo: In a deep glass bowl, stabilized on a damp towel shaped in a ring, combine the egg yolk and mustard.
  1. Using a whisk, incorporate the oil, about 2 tsps at a time, whisking constantly and vigorously to emulsify. Do not add the oil too quickly or the mixture will break and you’ll have to start over. Only add more oil when the last addition is fully incorporated.
  1. Keep adding oil and whisking until everything has been incorporated. At this point add the salt and lemon juice to taste. Adjust the seasoning as needed, and transfer to a container to store in the fridge while you make the frites. Fresh mayo like this will keep for about 4 days in the fridge. If there’s any leftover, use it on sandwiches, or fold some herbs into it for a great dip with crudités.
  1. Make the frites: Cut the potatoes into ½” strips and transfer them to a large pot filled with a generous amount of cold water. Bring to a boil and once at a boil cook for 2 minutes to par cook the potatoes. Gently drain and dry the potatoes on some paper towels. Cool fully.
  1. In a dry, deep pot with a candy thermometer clipped to the side, heat the oil to 325 degrees. Set up a half sheet tray with a resting rack next to the stove, and have a slotted spoon on hand to remove the potatoes from the hot oil as they par fry.
  1. Working in batches, par fry a handful of potatoes for about 5 minutes each, transferring to the resting rack as you go. They won’t take on much color. When all the potatoes are par fried, remove the oil from the heat and let it cool. Allow the fries to cool fully as well. This is a great time to relax with some wine or prep the rest of your meal.
  1. Heat the oil again, this time to 375 degrees. Keep the resting rack on hand and working in batches, fry the potatoes again until they are golden and crisp, and floating on the surface of the oil. This means all the moisture has evaporated and you’ll have perfectly crispy frites. Salt them liberally right as they come out of the hot oil. Enjoy them right away with the ketchup, mayo and whatever else you desire.

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About the Chef
Caroline Schiff is a chef based in Brooklyn, NY with a decade of experience in restaurants and bakeries. In May 2018 she launched her culinary consulting firm ParadigmSchiff, offering recipe and product development, menu consultations, concept development and corporate events. She has been featured on Vice: Munchies, Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay, Genius Kitchen, Cosmopolitan.com, and stars in the upcoming documentary series, Her Name Is Chef. Follow along @pastryschiff and @paradigmschiff.