The perfect French fry. Everyone has an opinion.
I did not grow up eating French fries. In my youth, Ore-Ida had not yet widely produced it’s frozen French fries, the only thing my mother might have considered making. There were no fast food chains in the Evanston, Illinois, of the 1950s (and, to my knowledge, there still aren’t today) so when my mother got wind of this new thing called a Whopper, we drove to far-off Skokie to get one. By the way, if you want to see a fascinating video about people who have never heard of or eaten a hamburger click here.
Back to French fries. My study of the French fry can be broken down into two types. The first type is the substantial skin-on variety that has found favor among more artisan fast food joints. These are from my lunch at Gabby’s today. There are extremely similar versions served at Five Guys and Martin’s BBQ. The virtue of this type of fry is that is has a large ratio of surface to interior, allowing the surface to get crispy while the interior remains creamy. This, to me, is the epitome of what a French fry should be. It takes a bit of effort to make this kind of French fry. Most of the time they are hand-cut. You can almost count them as healthy since there is a goodly amount of potato skin still on the fries. Almost.
Then there is the more typical fast food fry. These are from McDonald’s. They are, inexplicably, serving oatmeal at McDonald’s now, which I predict will be a monumental failure. Nobody goes to McDonald’s for oatmeal. McDonald’s fries are terrific. Less surface to interior ratio, but they are always served hot with lots of salt. And a small serving only has 210 calories so you don’t have to feel too bad about eating them. Unless they’re accompanied by a Big Mac, which they always are in my case. Less successful attempts at this kind of fry can be seen at Burger King and Wendy’s. At the absolute bottom of my fry study are the waffle fries at my beloved Chick-fil-A. They are not fries. They are not even slightly greasy, which a good fry should be. And, if they are not served extremely hot, they are inedible.
A third type of fry is emerging, at least in the South. The sweet potato fry. My friend, Gail, considers the sweet potato fry a vegetable and, therefore, virtuous to consume. These are her fries, also from lunch today at Gabby’s. They are very good, but I am more of a savory person than a sweet person so my personal preference veers toward the traditional spud. Sweet potato fries also have the advantage of universally being hand made.
Of course, all of this means nothing. It’s subjective. Somebody out there obviously loves waffle fries, because they’re still on Chick-fil-A’s menu. Some people, like me, seek out the crispy bits at the bottom of a plate of fries. You know, those bits that stayed in the oil just a tad too long?
And what to dip them in? Ketchup, mayonnaise and sour cream come to mind. But my absolutely favorite lubrication for the French fry is Comeback Sauce, invented in Mississippi and impossible to resist. That’s how it got its name. You always come back for more.