Saturday, January 12, 2013

Frites or Pommes Frites - French Fries in the USA and Chips in the UK. French Fries on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated February 2019
French fries, chips.
The perfect Pommes Frits, French Fries or Chips can be a culinary feast on their own. The ideal French fry has no fixed size though most French schools of the culinary arts teach their would-be chefs to cut them 5mm x 5 mm thick and 5 or 6 cm long. An excellent French fry is crispy and slightly crunchy on the outside; it will be colored a golden brown, and on the inside, it will be cooked and tender.  
The French take on properly made French fries requires them when freshly cut to be soaked in cold water before frying them twice. I was told that the soaking reduces much of the starch on the outside, and that aids in producing crispy fries, but its frying them twice that provides that perfect crispy fry. To order a steak to go with the fries see the post: Ordering a steak in France, cooked the way you like it.

The taste of the fries in France.
French fries in France have a distinctly different taste to those made using North American and UK recipes; visitors return home praising the French version but usually do not know the reason for that difference.
The majority of French diners and most French chefs agree that the best French fries are made, in accordance with French culinary tradition, using graisse de bœuf, beef suet, (beef fat with a low melting point). Beef fat is behind the fundamental taste difference as nearly all North American and UK fries are made using vegetable oils.  There are parts of France, like the south-west where graisse de canard, duck fat is used instead of beef fat. Vegetable oil for French fries is not part of the French tradition though that is slowly changing.  If you are a vegetarian, you should check with your server before ordering French fries and if you are not a vegetarian but worried about your cholesterol then, like the French, enjoy French fries cooked in beef fat but in small portions.

Names and sizes for French fries that may be on your menu:

Allumettes see Pommes Allumettes.

Bâtonnets de Pommes de Terre - Usually, these are regular French fries that have been breaded and flavored. However, on one occasion, when a friend ordered them, the Bâtonnets de Pommes de Terre arrived as tasty, deep-fried sticks of mashed potatoes, flavored with herbs and cheese. 

Frites or Pommes Frites - French fries. French fries or chips can be a culinary feast on their own. The ideal French fry has no fixed size, though most French schools of the culinary arts teach their would-be chefs to cut them 5mm x 5 mm thick and 5 or 6 cm long. An excellent French fry is crispy and slightly crunchy on the outside; it will be colored a golden brown, and on the inside, it will be cooked and tender.  

Pommes Frites
Photograph courtesy of cyclonebill

Gaufrettes – Potato crisps or potato chips; fried to a crisp with a latticed decoration.
Mignonnette Large French fries cut approximately 5mm x 5mm x 5 cm long. 

Steak frites  served with Sauce Beurre Maître d’hôtel
Sauce Beurre Maître d'hôtel is a thick parsley butter, a compound butter, made with added fresh lemon juice.  Hard, flavored butters like these are placed on a steak or slices from a roast just before serving;  they flavor as they melt.

     Pommes Allumettesalso called Pommes Pailles – Straw fries. They are cut approximately 2-3 mm x 2-3 mm x 7 cm long 

Pommes Allumettesalso called Pommes Pailles  Straw-fries. They are cut approximately 2-3 mm x 2-3 mm x 7 cm long 

Pommes Pont-Neuf, Pommes de Terre Pont-Neuf, on many menus just as Pont-Neuf  Large French fries also called Frites Parisienne. From my experience, the name doesn't come with a fixed size, just large fries; just poetry on the menu for large fries. The owner of the name is the Ponte Neuf Bridge; the oldest existing bridge in Paris. When they began to sell large-size fries from pushcarts in the 1830s and continued for over 100 years ago the bridge’s name became part of the fries’ name. Some menus listings use the name for cuts of deep-fried vegetables. 

The origin of the potato.

Columbus did not bring the potato back in 1492 when he discovered Central America. They arrived forty years later when Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca Empire in South America in 1532 and brought home the ingredients for French fries; that empire is now the modern state of Peru.  
The French received their first potatoes two years after Spain, but initially, like many others, they considered potatoes toxic; it took another two hundred years until Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (1737 – 1813) overcame that nonsense and made the potato part of the French diet.  (The idea that potatoes were poisonous was possibly due to French citizens going to a nasty chip shop I knew in England. Their chips were really “to die for!)”

After Parmentier had convinced the French to eat potatoes came the recipe for French fries, chips.  The French were undoubtedly frying potatoes by the time Benjamin Franklin attended a banquet hosted by Parmentier in 1783.  That banquet served every dish from the hors d’œuvre to the dessert made with potatoes.
The French Fry arrives in the USA.
According to an accepted tradition, the recipe for French fries arrived in the USA from France with Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson genuinely appreciated French cuisine, and while he served as the United States second Ambassador to France from 1785-1789 he had one of his slaves trained by a French chef. 
In the USA Jefferson chaired the committee that wrote the US constitution, and long before he became Ambassador to France, he had already spent many years in France serving the USA before its independence. Those years included working with Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Paine; all of whom all took part in writing the USA Constitution. These four famous Americans also contributed to and gave to the French writers of their Constitution some of their own ideas. Apart from ideas for the USA constitution Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson also took home many recipes from French Haute Cuisine. Thomas Jefferson is also credited with bringing home enough wine to fill his cellar in Monticello.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The memorial is in honor of the man and his work on the US Constitution, and not for bringing home the recipe for French fries!
Frites Belge - Belgian fries.
Most French chefs do accept that the two-step recipe for French fries began with the Belgians with whom the French have many cultural similarities and national rivalries. Then, to remind everyone in France about Belgian Fries there are many Belgian chain restaurants selling the always popular, and inexpensive, moules frites, mussels, and French fries.  These Belgian chain restaurants will often note Frites Belge, Belgian Fries, however, today, there will be no difference between well-made French Fries and well-made Belgian Fries.  Good recipes are for sharing.
Moules Frites - Mussels and French Fries.
In Belgium fries are not limited to restaurants or homes, they are also a street food; eaten out of a paper cone while walking down the street with a side helping of fresh mayonnaise.  You will also find this tasty fast food habit in Holland competing with their own excellent fresh herring sandwiches.
Selling the favorite Belgian fast food.

Pommes de Terre Bintje - The Bintje potato;
                    The most popular potato in France and probably the rest of Europe. 

The Bintje potato is the one that most restaurants in France will use to make your French fries. The Bintje is a starchy potato, and that makes an ideal fry.
As its name would suggest, the Bintje potato’s origins are Dutch, (it is pronounced Ben-Jee). This potato was a cross achieved in 1906 by a schoolteacher who was also a botanist; that teacher, Kornelis Friesland, used potatoes to demonstrate genetics to his pupils. The Bintje potato he named after one of his star pupils, a young Dutch lady called Bintje Jansma.
Frites mayonnaise.
The Bintje was a good tasting potato, and by 1910, the Bintje potato reached the number one spot in Holland; within a few more years the Bintje became the most popular potato in Europe. The Bintje is also well-liked in North America; but, overall, North Americans prefer; the Yukon potato, it is a larger and whiter potato, the Yukon, like the Bintje,  is the result of a cross.

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Bryan G Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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  1. Popular too, are the many frites vans in France serving fabulous frites and other 'fast food' items a favourite of which is the baguette filled to overflowing with frites. My favourite one can be seen here:
    the Friterie Richelieu on the corner of Rue de Rome and the Place du Marechal Foch in Calais.

    1. I have also enjoyed frites on the go, however, with my blog entitled "behind the French Menu" I can hardly encourage them in a post! :-).

      By the way check your link for the photograph as I think the van has driven away!

      Thanks for the interest in the blog. If you do like it give the Facebook page Behind the French Menu a LIKE.



  2. Actually, the van has been replaced with a more permanent 'temporary' structure. Still serves the same frites!

    1. After all this time you tell me!

      I must have spent hours on that corner just waiting for the van with the "absolute" French fries to pass by. (Not actually waiting, but I had thought about it and the thought is what counts).

      Now you tell us that that this unique French fry supplier has upgraded himself and is well on the way to being part of the establishment. You say he still serves the same fries but that will change. Soon he will set out tables and make us eat off plates!

      It never lasts does it?

      Thanks for the update and enjoy his fries before he begin changing the beef suit to a vegetable oil which is healthier!



  3. After reading your article I thinks I will try to make this recipe in my home. Thanks for sharing.

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