Sunday, February 26, 2012

Thick Cut English Chips Revisited Part 1

I'm not one to "go softly into that good night". Only a Welsh poet's words could aptly be applied to the conundrum of a proper fried chip. I thought I had given up on the thick English version, but  indeed, I will rage, rage against the dying of that light.

In preparation for the Toronto Underground Market, I have been re-working some of my recipes for optimum results, notably, the chips. I know I have blogged about how the French-style frites are the superior chip, but I just couldn't bring myself to serve a French fry at an English pub-themed market booth. I needed to make the thick chip less greasy and less mealy inside. What was needed, was an expert.

The French version of the chip that I have been frying, rather successfully for years now, is based on the French Culinary Institute technique (I got their huge and voluminous text book in a second-hand shop); a simple two-fry method with a good soak in water before hand. This is the famous school in New York for which Jacques Pepin is the presiding dean and they boast such noted alumni as Bobby Flay. However, I needed something even better than that. Enter Caterer and Hotel-keeper Magazine, a British authority in the business. There is an excellent collaborative article written by a couple of pub owners and a 'chippy' regarding the perfect English chip, including references to Heston Blumenthal's Michelin star chips from his Fat Duck restaurant. Could I ask for a better resource? From what I have derived from these experienced chip fryers, for best results, cook your chips three times. THREE TIMES!? I am indeed a glutton for punishment.

The Fat Duck Restaurant

I also need to determine the perfect potato. In England they have varieties such as King Edward, Desiree and Maris Piper, and many more. We are simply not as blessed with potato varieties here in Ontario. The Maris Piper potato has been deemed the ideal potato for chips, but we don't have them here. Research has lead me to the russet as the closest approximation. However, this revelation was determined by some blogger I found online (another schlep like me - what does he know?); not an authority. The best kind of research is empirical research, so I had to test it myself. Of the most common varieties of potato in Ontario, russet and Yukon gold are the two types that I know can stand up to three phases of cooking. Red-skinned potatoes would fall apart and those 'yellow-fleshed' potatoes as they are called, would probably be too waxy. So I had two varieties to test and three phases of cooking to test them in. Sigh.

To be continued here.

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