French fries (American English) or chips, fries, finger chips, or French-fried potatoes are batons of deep-fried potato. Americans and most Canadians refer to any elongated pieces of fried potatoes as fries, while in the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, long, thinly cut slices of fried potatoes are sometimes called fries to distinguish them from the more thickly cut strips called chips.
French fries are served hot and generally eaten as an accompaniment with lunch or dinner, or eaten as a snack, and they are a common fixture of fast food. French fries are generally salted and, in their simplest and most common form, are served with tomato sauce or ketchup; in many countries, though, they are topped instead with other condiments or toppings, including vinegar, mayonnaise, or other local specialities.
Fries can also be topped more elaborately, as is the case with the dishes of Poutine and Chilli Cheese Fries. Sometimes, fries are made with sweet potatoes instead of potatoes, are baked instead of fried, or are cut into unusual shapes, as is the case with curly fries, wavy fries, or tornado fries.
Culinary Origin of Fries
It is claimed that fries originated in Belgium, and the on-going dispute between the French and Belgians about where they were invented is highly contentious, with both countries claiming ownership. The popularity of the term “French fries” is explained as a result of “French gastronomic hegemony” internationally, where the cuisine of Belgium was assimilated because of a lack of understanding.
Belgian journalist Jo Gérard claims that a 1781 family manuscript recounts that potatoes were deep-fried prior to 1680 in what was then the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium), in the Meuse valley: “The inhabitants of Namur, Andenne, and Dinant, had the custom of fishing in the Meuse for small fish and frying, especially among the poor, but when the river was frozen and fishing became hazardous, they cut potatoes in the form of small fish and put them in a fryer like those here.” Gérard has not produced the manuscript that supports this claim, which, even if true, is unrelated to the later history of the French fry, as the potato did not arrive in the region until around 1735. Also, given 18th century economic conditions: “It is absolutely unthinkable that a peasant could have consecrated large quantities of fat for cooking potatoes. At most they were sautéed in a pan…”.
Some people believe that the term “French” was introduced when British and American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I and consequently tasted Belgian fries. They supposedly called them “French”, as it was the local language and official language of the Belgian Army at that time, believing themselves to be in France. At this time, the term “French fries” was growing popular; however, in the south of Netherlands, bordering Belgium, they were, and still are, called Vlaamse frieten (“Flemish fries”).
In France and other French-speaking countries, fried potatoes are formally pommes de terre frites, but more commonly pommes frites, patates frites, or simply frites. The word “aiguillettes” or allumettes is used when the chips are very small and thin.
One enduring origin story holds that French Fries were invented by street vendors on the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris in 1789, just before the outbreak of the French revolution. Eating potatoes was promoted in France by Parmentier, but he did not mention fried potatoes in particular. Many Americans attribute the dish to France and offer as evidence a notation by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. “Pommes de terre frites à cru, en petites tranches” (“Potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small cuttings”) in a manuscript in Thomas Jefferson’s hand (circa 1801–1809) and the recipe almost certainly comes from his French chef, Honoré Julien. In addition, from 1813 on, recipes for what can be described as French fries occur in popular American cookbooks. By the late 1850s, one of these uses the term French fried potatoes.
Frites are the main ingredient in the Canadian dish of Québécois descent known in both Canadian English and French as Poutine, consisting of fried potatoes covered with cheese curds and gravy, a dish with a growing number of variations.
In Spain, fried potatoes are called patatas fritas or papas fritas. Another common form, in which the potatoes are cut into irregular shapes and seasoned with a spicy tomato sauce, is called Patatas Bravas.
Some speculate that the dish may have been invented in Spain, the first European country in which the potato appeared via the New World colonies, and assumes the first appearance to have been as an accompaniment to fish dishes in Galicia, from which it spread to the rest of the country and further to the Spanish Netherlands, which became Belgium more than a century later.
Professor Paul Ilegems, curator of the Frietmuseum in Bruges, Belgium, believes that Saint Teresa of Ávila fried the first chips, referring also to the tradition of frying in Mediterranean cuisine.
- Cut potatoes into your desired fries size.
- Place cut potatoes into a pot of cold, heavily salted water. Bring to boil. Once you see the first big bubble of a boil, remove the fries. They will be cooked but should not be falling apart. Drain and run gently under cool water.
- Dry on a paper towel and cool fries in fridge until leathery.
- Fry at 160°C until a crust forms but no colour.
- Shake off the excess oil and cool in refrigerator.
- Fry again at 195°C until golden and crispy.
If you prefer, you can cut the potato into thin wedges. Try to cut them so they are about 12 mm wide at the widest part of the potato.
It's important to use an oil suitable for deep-frying when making fries. Some oils, such as olive and flaxseed, are not appropriate because they have low smoke points (160°C and below) and will smoke, discolour, and break down at low temperatures. Oils with a higher smoke point (202°C to 210°C) that work well for deep-frying include canola and peanut oil.