I’m a fry guy – die hard in fact. I love my spuds. Maybe it’s the Irish half of me? I don’t know. I own a deep fryer at home and love making homemade steak fries, no batter, no extra stuff… just potatoes, canola oil and some sea salt. They melt in your mouth and have my boys begging for more.
Now, finding some good fries always seems to be a challenge I take on. I work in downtown Boston and I have a plethora of fast food, diners, restaurants and vendors all around me. Now, you’d think it’d be super easy finding the perfect fry. The real question is; What makes the ‘perfect’ french fry?
Pick Apart The French Fries… err Pommes Frites
Before we discuss what makes the perfect fry, as all of you know I love etymology (the study of the origin of words).
Despite the name, French Fries do not come from France. The french actually call them “pommes frites” which literally means “fried potatoes”.
French Fries actually come from Belgium (which of course is near France) and can be traced back to the late 1600’s where villagers would slice and fry potatoes during the winter months.
The use of the actual name “French Fries” didn’t come about until the early 20th century (around 1920) when the term “french fried potatoes” were being used. We crazy Americans had to shorten it to french fries.
The Perfect French Fry
Of course the definition of ‘perfect’ is subjective, so perhaps we should call this, the Perfect French Fry according to Jason Stadtlander?
1. Natural cut potatoes – many manufactures ground up the potatoes and then press them into french fries (sacrilege!). Nope, they need to be cut up via a knife or fry press with the skins still on them.
2. Fresh, not frozen or par-fried – I’ve tried them all and par-frying (pre-frying) and frozen just don’t hold a candle to fresh cut potatoes.
3. Peanut Oil or Canola Oil – Peanut oil is very expensive but very flavorful. The downfall to peanut is, some people have allergies and it’s also high in saturated fat. Canola oil is definitely a little more expensive than vegetable oil but low in saturated fat and high in Omega 3. So out of the 14 odd regularly used oils, Canola gets my #1 vote.
4. No spices except sea salt – Too many places try and throw tons of various spices and they just don’t go. Sometimes a little cayenne pepper can be nice, but sea-salt is the perfect marriage to the potato.
5. 400° F (204° C) Temperature – Ideal french fries should be fried for 6-7 minutes at 400° F
Ketchup, Catsup… What ever…
The ultimate condiment with french fries. Although Europeans might argue that mayo is a better condiment. Personally, I like Ketchup, but I much more prefer malt vinegar. Especially on fresh fair fries – Yummy!
Where Does One Get The Perfect French Fry in Boston?
Well, I work in Government Center, so keep in mind, I’m localizing this to the Government Center, Beacon Hill, Downtown Crossing and MGH hospital areas. Strangely there aren’t very many places that even offer french fries because they are Italian or specialty restaurants.
A few places I’ve tried which just rank as terrible on my French-Fry-Ometer and should only be purchased in desperation are (in no particular order):
1. Burger King – Center Plaza
2. McDonalds – Downtown Crossing
3. New Chardon Cafe – New Chardon Street
4. Kinsale – You’d think an Irish place would be great at potatoes but they’re not.
Here are a few of my favorites nearby (in no particular order):
1. B. Good – Decent fries, but too small of a size and only one size offered
2. Red Hat – One of the oldest taverns in Boston. Under new management and have great fries.
3. Five Guys – Always love Five Guys’ fries but really love that you get your money’s worth. They are always heaping over with fries.
My choice for the best fries goes to a food truck that can be found at the corner of Cambridge Street and New Chardon every Thursday lunch hour called Walloons. Fabulous fries, fresh cut with sea salt. They do have an interesting flavor which might be some paprika, I’ll have to ask next time. For those that like sweet potato fries (which I’m not partial to), they have those as well.