08 February 2015

Potato chips

Cooking is like learning a language. Every time you think you've got something figured out, a new technique, a new expression, a new method or word comes along.

We've never had a lot of luck making French-fried potatoes using fresh potatoes. They've never come out as crispy as we would want. They're good, but they aren't the best pommes frites in the world.

Crispy, light chips made with red boiling potatoes

There's a well-known Belgian comic/humorist who lives in our village — I just happened to hear him on the radio one day, years ago, and I was surprised when he named our village as his adopted home. He was asked by the interviewer whether he cooked pommes frites, a Belgian specialty, at home. He said yes, he did, but he had a hard time here in the Touraine finding the right kind of potatoes for frying. Every time he went back to Belgium, he said, he came back with the trunk of his car filled up with good potatoes from up there. So I concluded it was all about finding the right potatoes.

Buffalo-style wings, kale, and chips made with spuds sold as frying or mashing potatoes

Well, a few days ago, we wondered about making potato chips from fresh potatoes. Walt looked it up, and found a recipe that looked easy. Two ingredients: potatoes and peanut oil. It would make a good experiment. In fact, what it made was fantastic potato chips (or "crisps" if you are not American). We've made them twice now, cutting them on a mandolin using the "waffle" blade. (Funny — waffles are a Belgian specialty too.) So it turns out that the secret to good fried potatoes is not so much the potato you use but how you cut them up.


  1. Si les Belges n'existaient pas , il faudrait les inventer ! Ils ont bercé ma jeunesse avec leurs BD !

  2. Replies
    1. Really excellent. We're going to keep making them, trying different varieties of potatoes.

  3. The whole meal looks good! Nice to see you still do some American-style cooking.

    1. We've been happy to be able to get chicken wings at SuperU over the past few years. They can be cooked so many ways and are satisfying without being consumed in large quantities.

  4. They do look good. I was just wondering what to do for lunch, but i don't have a mandolin, so I'm going to have to try slicing with a normal knife.

    1. Walt is the master of the mandolin around here. That waffle cut is very good.

  5. Typing as an Anglais....
    to me these are "thick cut" crisps...
    or, if served with pheasant, very expensive "Game Chips."
    French Fries... to me that word conjours up long, thin, rectangular cut lengths of spud...
    crisp and golden on the outside, soft potato on the inside...
    English Chips are the same... as are Belgian Frites....
    the only difference is that the British version is about half an inch square....
    the Belgian about 3/8ths of an inch and the French Fry coming in at a quarter of an inch.
    MacD's do French Fries, coming on Belgian Frites.

    The trick with any potato fried product is to let the outside of the potato dry properly...
    my mother used to cut the chips and pat them all over with a paper towel...
    originally it was a clean drying cloth...
    the chips were then left to dry for a couple of hours...
    then they had their first fry.
    Once cooked and pale gold, they were turned out onto paper towel and left to get cold...
    This can be done several hours in advance according to the "Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook"....
    my Mum never left them more than an hour.
    You then re-fry them before serving...
    at a higher temperature.
    I had two settings on my old, and long defunct Tefal deep fat fryer...
    for first and second pass...
    the cookbook mentioned above actually has the temperatures and times...
    325 Frankenstein for the first cook and 4 to 5 minutes only per cup-full batch...
    and 375 Frankenstein for the last... for 1 to 2 minutes per 1-cup batch...
    and serve immediately...
    and only use old potatoes...
    there is not enough starch developes in new or young spuds.

    I would use Remarka [Dutch], King Edward, British Queen or Red Duke of York...
    more than a month after lifting!!
    The cookbook I mentioned was written for the American market and lists Idaho, Russet or Yukon Gold...
    we've grown the last two ourselves when in Leeds... and they do have good flavour!!

    And lard [saindoux] is the best for frying...
    it doesn't smoke at the higher setting...
    nor does coconut oil!

    We haven't yet dug down through the boxes as far as the deep-fat fryer!!

    1. Where in the world would I get any of those English or American potato varieties? Bintje ou BF15 are worth trying. The red boiling potatoes (Franceline?) were very good, as were the frying potatoes called "Excellency". Are those British? Probably not. We fry in peanut oil. The potato chips as we made them do not require two fryings. I've always done the two fryings for French fries (pommes frites) but never with the best results. I actually prefer the frozen potatoes for frites. I think they are the right varieties.

      American French fries come in all sizes: very thin (allumettes), regular, or steak fries (fat). McDonald's do seem to have a good reputation, at least in the States.

    2. "Where in the world would I get any of those English or American potato varieties?"...
      That Ken, is why we ended up by growing our own! They aren't available off the shelf in the UK either!!
      You might possibly find some King Edwards on a stall in a farmers' market... but not in the supermarkets!
      King Edward, Stemster and Duke of York are all available as seed potatoes in France....
      Red Duke of York unfortunately, is not.
      Russet and Idaho are also available as seed potato in France.
      King Edward ...King Edward VII is its name in France... is grown commercially over here... but tends to be very expensive!
      Pauline et moi have a tendancy to look at the labels on the potato bags to see if their are any varieties we might try...

      Stemster, a Jack Dunnett variety from Caithness... is a firm G.I.Y. favourite in France...
      so much so, that someone bought the rights to its distribution...
      and named it Prosper....
      it is interesting to note that all the bags are now carrying the name Stemster in brackets underneath the word Prosper!!
      I don't think he made a wise descision... your French G.I.Y. is perhaps a tad more conservative than even the older British allotmenteers... there were some very poor types for the soil on our allotments in Leeds... but if we didn't have those seed in the allotment shop, come February, there were some very sour faces!!

      I agree with you on both Franceline and BF15... not tried Bintje, tho.
      Both BF15 and Bintje are Dutch... and they like their chips almost as much as Les Belges!!
      So, might try some Bintje next year... but from bought packs we've found the flavour a bit on the bland side...
      but that could be where they are grown!

      To my knowledge, the MacDs chips also have a good reputation in the UK... it is the burgers that don't... at least that is what anyone I spoken to about food, who has eaten a McDonalds in the US, has said to me!!

  6. I rarely do chips from potatoes at home. I usually buy them at shops..

    1. We don't go to shops like that much, nor do we go to restaurants often. So making fries or chips or whatever you call them is a treat.

  7. do u just use a pot or skillet for frying? no "fry daddy" or anything?? also I have seen recipes for making crispy chips in the micro, but never tried (i imagine they'd have to be see thru thin)

    1. We have an electric fryer so we can set the frying temperature. Very handy.

  8. Miam, miam. You were eating kale before it became trendy I think. The mandolin was a good invention. I need to get mine out soon.

    1. I grew that kale from seeds that I brought back from N.C.

  9. This is a subject dear to my heart. Potato chips are my worst weakness, and my all-time favorite brand is Utz's, made in Pennsylvania and appreciated everywhere. Though maybe not yet in France. We didn’t see them in France. We did see Lay's, but even though Lionel Messi's photo was on the bag, I wasn't tempted. Lay's chips just aren't that good. I'm sure yours are better.

    A friend told me she made chips by heating up her fry kettle and using a peeler to shave off slices of potato right into the kettle. Utz keeps its potatoes at 52 degrees.

    There's so much confusion in terminology between different regions of the anglophone world. I think we need binomial nomenclature for food products, so that a US fruit crisp isn't confused with an English potato crisp, and that a thick English chip isn't confused with a thin American potato chip. For the American potato chip, I suggest the term Solanum tuberosum Utzi.

    1. I don't think I know Utz's chips, but my big problem with store-bought chips is their extreme saltiness.

    2. Saltiness isn't a bug; it's a feature.

    3. LOL, you are right of course. Maybe I'm just extra-sensitive to saltiness, or at least that kind of saltiness. It might be because I grew up swimming in the ocean so much. I never did like the taste of seawater. When I was younger, I didn't really like ham because it was too salty. Then in France I discovered that eating salty ham with unsalted butter made it delicious. I also prefer unsalted tortilla chips, for example, to salted ones.

    4. Ken, one of the joys of crisps in France is that many have way less salt than in the UK!
      "Bouton d'Or" A l'Ancienne crisps... from Intermarché are some of the lowest...
      and you can taste spud!
      LIDL, on the other hand sell crisps that are like British...
      somewhere in all that salt...
      there is some potato.
      Smiths Crisps in the UK.... when I was but a stripling...
      used to do theirs with a little blue bag of salt so that you could add what you liked.
      They re-issued that range in the early 90s... but the bag was a machine stamped "ravioli" square...
      not as nice as the hand-twisted one of my childhood... we used to bomb the ducks with those...
      but the joy of that little salt bag was just that... you could discard it and taste the potato!!
      I'm with you... the lower the salt the better... preferably none... and I didn't spend time in the ocean...
      so it may not be the salt water you swallowed!!

  10. Re: yesterday's post. I found myself dicing onions today for lamb barley soup. Do you dice your onions under running water to avoid tearfulness or just cry? I'm a little afraid to dice onions under running water because it might add water to the recipe. Your thoughts?

  11. No, I don't cut the onions under water, and I find that they seldom make my eyes burn or tear up while I'm cutting them. I'm not sure why. Maybe some people are more susceptible to the onion fumes or whatever it is that others are. I do remember that when I first came to live here nearly 12 years ago the onions did that to me but not any more. I don't think cutting the onions under running water would add water to a recipe if you put the cut onions in a strainer or colander and gave them time to dry completely. Or dry them with a clean dish towel or paper towels.


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