When my brother finished his degree at the Lausanne Hotel school, he had to report for compulsory military service in France for one year. Like all new recruits, he had to do “les classes” or new recruit break-in for three months, and then by an “act of God”, he was asked to report for duty at the kitchen of the Elysée palace, the residence of the French President. (I think that God was this good friend of my Dad, a chef named Paul Bocuse).
Under the close supervision of the Elysée executive chef, my brother would order and prepare all the food required for the President and his guests , both for official events and for personal meals. It would certainly get more interesting on calm week-ends when the young recruits were left on their own to hold the fort in the kitchen. They still had to be prepared for anything and could direct order from the best shops in Paris anything they thought the president my like, whether seafood, best cuts of meats, wild mushrooms, etc… and they were not shy about being ready, they always had magnificent meals to cook, hold, and maybe taste, and maybe even eat before they would spoil, if no guests showed up!
On the really quiet nights, when nothing was up and no one was around, the president relished a good steak with “frites” and a green salad. So simple, yet so French!
I make French fries here in Canada all the time, or rather my son Nicolas would make them before he relocated in Ottawa. We had four of those electric deep fryers for the home over the years and the last one just died. I have been doing without one since, making the fries in a large Le Creuset stock pot, the one my daughter gave me for my birthday.
Back to the French fries, the potatoes…. the potatoes in Canada are great but they are not such a good match for fries, as potatoes cultivated in France or Holland. So now that we all know Canadian fries will never taste quite like the presidential French fries in Paris, let’s give it our best shot. They will be delicious. The French fries though, they are worth the trip to France.
Peel and cut two medium size baking potatoes or Russet potatoes or even Yukon gold, per person. Cut them in four or five slices vertically, and then cut each slice in long fries less than 1 cm square. Immediately, rinse them well under very cold water. Then, let them soak in a large bowl completely covered with ice water for 2 hours or more in the fridge. Turn the deep fryer on the maximum heat or heat the oil in your pot. (The pot has to be very large as the oil should not reach higher than 1/4 in height and you need a steaming basket).
Rinse again and drain the potatoes well. Dry them thoroughly in a clean kitchen towel or terry towel. Lower the basket gently in the oil when it is hot. Do not overload or the fries will not cook right. Fry for more or less 7 minutes depending on the pot,the size of your fries and the size of the batch , covered if it is the electric fryer, uncovered if it is a pot. Lift the basket out and take a few minutes to prepare everything else including a heated serving dish lined with paper towel for the fries. At the last minute, do a second dip, until the fries are literally golden. Bring them out, shake the basket, transfer in the bowl, sprinkle with salt immediately.
Enjoy without vinegar, ketch-up or mayonnaise! Dine like a king, oops sorry, a president!
Tips:For 5 people, you need about 10 potatoes cooked in two batches. Serve everyone a few fries and make the second batch while they eat, it will be hot when you serve it. Never eat cold fries, and don’t re-heat them. Do not use new potatoes or potatoes that have green parts under the skin. Do not cover the fries or they will get soggy. Canola or peanut oil are good for frying.