“Frites are something of a culinary icon, bringing joy to people of all generations and backgrounds for the duration of a meal…It was while enjoying a plate of frites that the idea for this book came to me four years ago,” writes author, Anne de la Forest, a French journalist and food lover at heart. Her book, Frites, is less of a cookbook and more of a compilation of research and guidelines for creating the perfect frite.
Why ‘frite’ instead of ‘fry’?
She uses the term ‘frites’ to refer to fried potatoes and other fried vegetables and fruits in the recipes contained in this book because there are so many different names given to these foods around the world.
Gastronomy, history and more
Illustrating the cerebral nature of this book’s design is a two-page essay introducing the chemistry behind the creation of a perfect frite written by Herve This, the co-author of Molecular Gastronomy. In understandable terms, he explains the cooking method required to achieve frite perfection as it relates to the composition of the potato. He provides interesting ‘food for thought’ as the book unfolds.
Anne de la Forest compiles six pages of frite history complete with footnotes and references to more in-depth writings. The background of the French fry is followed by a very thorough explanation of the recommended types of potatoes, vegetables that are best for frying, and oils to use in each application.
The technical guide section expounds on methods for cleaning, peeling, and cutting potatoes, and it offers suggestions for the best equipment to insure success in each step. Anne de la Forest provides tips on how to choose a fryer, and there are excellent photographs and sketches on each page to illustrate her points.
The recipes are divided into sections:
Personal experience with Frites
In our evening of experimental frying, my family gave a big thumb’s up to the American French Fry recipe. Many crucial steps are included to achieve the perfect fry: cutting the russet into uniform sticks, soaking the fries in cold water for 30 minutes, drying them thoroughly, frying for 7 minutes, draining and cooling for 30 minutes, and then frying again at a lower temperature. A liberal sprinkling of sea salt and a list of suggested sauce pairings finished the project.
The homemade ketchup was a great accompaniment. Despite the list of 12 ingredients, it was easy to make. I did need to Google a recipe for “mixed spice” as it called for one teaspoon of it, and there was no explanation anywhere. Apparently, it is commonly found in European spice shelves and was easy to create once I knew the mixture. (Ed. Note: Mixed spice is a Britishblend of sweet spices, similar to the pumpkin pie spice used in the United States. Cinnamon is the dominant flavor, with nutmeg and allspice.)
We also prepared the Sweet Potato and Cumin Frites recipe. Although they were quite tasty, they were not as crisp as the russets and therefore not as appealing.
From the Creative Frites section, I made Turnip frites and Parsnip frites. The turnip sticks were seasoned and baked in the oven at 350, and none of us thought they were very remarkable. The parsnip frites were fried, but the taste wasn’t terribly appealing.
I’ll have to concede that the American French Fries were so amazing that anything else I prepared that evening paled in comparison.
Who should have Frites by Anne de la Forest?
This book would be an excellent aide if you are on a quest to create and experience the perfect frite. It will expand your base of knowledge in all the crucial elements necessary to achieve perfection in the preparation of French fries. Then, the argument surrounding who really invented the fried potato won’t matter; your friends and family will give you all the credit. — by Lisa George, RFT Cookbook Editor, Latigo Ranch, Kremmling, Colorado