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Posts tagged ‘french fries’

Poutine or Disco Fries?

Poutine – that Canadian dish of exquisite perfection – is getting a lot of attention these days. This simple dish is nothing but french fries covered in a special gravy and topped with cheese curds.  But, oh, what a winning combination!

Food bloggers swoon over poutine and post photos all over the internet (go ahead, have a look).  Au Pied de Chochon in Montreal offers a version with foie gras (yes!) and a new restaurant called Big Cheese Poutinerie just opened in Chicago, offering 30 variations on the theme. Tucson residents can look forward to the August opening of the first U.S. Fries, a Canadian restaurant which will offer a poutine-centric menu.

Clearly the time has come to embrace poutine. And we are so ready.

Wait. Cheese curds?  Not impossible to find in the U.S. But it helps to be near a dairy or cheese factory, because these rubbery little chunks of salty cheese must be eaten fresh.  They are sometimes known as “squeaky cheese” because they squeak against your teeth when you bite down.

Poutine has been adapted in the U.S., specifically in New York City and parts of New Jersey, where restaurants offer “disco fries.”  By the late 1970s a hot dish of fries with beef gravy and shredded cheese was de rigueur dining for disco divas with a lot of alcohol in their systems at  2 a.m. Or at least that’s what we gather from the history page at the website Montreal Poutine.

For anyone living in Northern New Jersey during the past 35 years, disco fries have been a mainstay on diner menus. The Tick Tock Diner in Clifton, NJ offers disco fries with gravy and mozzarella 24 hours a day. A review on Trip Advisor calls them “the best disco fries in NJ.”

Eating in South Jersey Disco Fries

Disco fries. Photo from Eating in South Jersey blog

But they are NOT poutine.

The main difference between poutine and disco fries is the cheese. Cheddar or mozzarella cheese is fully melted over the heap of disco fries, unlike the cheese curds in poutine, which melt and soften, but remain whole and add a lot of chewy texture to the dish.

Apparently, you cannot even compare the two in front of a Canadian. We have one in our office and she became quite agitated at them even being mentioned in the same sentence. Sorry!

So we decided to make poutine D’Artagnan style, which means starting with duck fat fried potatoes. There is nothing better than duck fat for frying potatoes. We used 4 of our 7 ounce containers of it in this recipe. The great thing about duck fat is that you can reuse it (if it’s not burned), so let it cool and pour it into jar. Fry something else in it later. You will thank us.

Fries in the pan on the tray

One batch in the duck fat & parcooked fries on the rack.

 

Gravy

The gravy – beef & chicken stock with demi-glace

Our gravy is homemade with real chicken and beef stock, though we went a little too heavy on the chicken-to-beef stock ratio. A good dash of our duck and veal demi- glace balanced out the flavor and made the color a bit darker.

Fries in a bowl

After the second fry

Fries need to cook in hot duck fat twice. The first time for 5-8 minutes to par cook and the second time at slightly higher temperature to crisp and brown nicely.  This will only take a few minutes.

Poutine

The finished poutine

We tossed the fries in a bowl with a little gravy, then added the cheese curds, a little more salt and it was divine. If you can get cheese curds, we suggest you give it a try. And if you can’t, try them it some foie gras instead.

 

How-To: Duck Fat Fries

The humble Idaho spud gets a decadent upgrade when cut fresh and plunged into bubbly duck fat. The resulting frites are golden and crispy with tender, creamy interiors and a hint of delicious duckiness.

Obtain the Duck Fat

You might already have some rendered duck fat in your refrigerator or freezer from the last time you roasted a whole duck or seared duck breasts. You will need enough to completely cover the potatoes as they are cooking, about 2 or 3 inches in the bottom of a pot. If you don’t have enough rendered duck fat on hand, supplement with pre-rendered Duck Fat.

Prep Your Potato

The russet potato is the ideal frying potato. Peel the skin for a more refined frites, or scrub the skin well and leave on for a rustic fry. Cut potatoes into sticks between 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch wide. Rinse the cut potatoes in cold water to remove any excess starch. If you have the time, soaking them in ice water for 30 minutes will yield even better results. Drain the potatoes before frying and pat them dry.

Learn the Correct Frying Technique

The secret to the perfect French fry in any fat is the double-fry method. The first fry is to cook the potato through. The second fry at a higher temperature is to crisp them up. Melt the duck fat in a heavy-bottomed pot with high sides. Heat the fat to about 325 degrees F. A deep-frying/candy thermometer is really handy for getting an accurate reading. Cook the potato sticks in small batches to avoid dramatically dropping the temperature of the hot fat. After about 5 to 7 minutes, test the doneness by poking a fry with a knife. The knife should slide in and out with no resistance. If the potatoes are cooked through, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon, spider skimmer, or tongs and let drain on a sheet tray covered in paper towels. After all of the batches are cooked and cooled, raise the heat under the pot and bring the melted duck fat to 350 degrees F. Return the fries to the pot, in batches again, for only about 1 minute. Drain on fresh paper towels. Sprinkle them right away with your choice of sea salt, black pepper, paprika, parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, or whatever seasonings you like. Doing this step while the fries are still hot will help the seasonings to stick.

Consider Dipping SaucesYour duck fat French fries will be perfect by themselves. However, you can take them one step further by serving with a dipping sauce. Try serving them with mayonnaise mixed with fresh herbs or take your frites over the top with a drizzle of truffle oil. When all else fails, ketchup is a trusty stand-by. Use your favorite store-bought brand or get adventurous and make your own out of roasted red peppers and roasted garlic.

Don’t Waste the Duck Fat!

After your fries are cooked, turn off the heat and let the duck fat cool so it is easy to handle but not solidified. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any pieces of potato. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and then freeze for a later use.

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