A dish of French fries
|Alternative name(s)||Belgian fries, chips, hot chips, finger chips, fries, steak fries, wedges, potato wedges, frites|
|Place of origin||Belgium|
|Course||Side dish or snack, rarely as a main dish|
|Serving temperature||Hot, generally salted, often served with ketchup, vinegar, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, or other sauce on the side|
|Main ingredient(s)||Potatoes and oil|
French fries (American English, with "French" often capitalized), or chips, fries, finger chips, or French-fried potatoes are batons of deep-fried potato. North Americans 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 ketchup, though in many countries they are topped instead with other things, including vinegar, mayonnaise, or other local specialities. Fries can also be topped more elaborately, as is the case with the dishes of poutine and chili 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.
Thomas Jefferson had "potatoes served in the French manner" at a White House dinner in 1802. The expression "French Fried Potatoes" first occurs in print in English in the 1856 work Cookery for Maids of All Work by E. Warren: "French Fried Potatoes. – Cut new potatoes in thin slices, put them in boiling fat, and a little salt; fry both sides of a light golden brown colour; drain." In the early 20th century, the term "French fried" was being used in the sense of "deep-fried", for other foods such as onion rings or chicken.
It is unlikely that "French fried" refers to frenching in the sense of julienning, which is not attested until after French fried potatoes. Previously, Frenching referred only to trimming meat off the shanks of chops.
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 Belgians believe that the term "French" was introduced when American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I, and consequently tasted Belgian fries. They supposedly called them "French," as it was the official language of the Belgian Army at that time. At this time French fries were growing popular. However, in the south of Netherlands, bordering Belgium, they were, and still are, called Vlaamse Frieten or Flemish fries.
France and French-speaking countries
In France and 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.
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, comprising 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 Friet-museum in Antwerp, Belgium, believes that Saint Teresa of Ávila fried the first chips, referring also to the tradition of frying in Mediterranean cuisine.
The J. R. Simplot Company is credited with successfully commercializing French fries in frozen form during the 1940s. Subsequently, in 1967, Ray Kroc of McDonald's contracted the Simplot company to supply them with frozen fries, replacing fresh-cut potatoes.
In 2004, 29% of the United States' potato crop were used to make frozen fries – 90% consumed by the food services sector and 10% by retail. It is estimated that 80% of households in the UK buy frozen fries each year.
Canada's McCain Foods is the world's leading producer of frozen fries. In addition to household products, they supply frozen fries to fast food companies such as McDonald's and KFC.
Belgium and the Netherlands
Fries are very popular in Belgium and the Netherlands. In Belgium fries are sold in shops called friteries in French and frietkot/ fritkot/ frituur in Dutch. They are served with a large variety of sauces and eaten either on their own or with other snacks such as fricandelle or burgers. Traditionally, they are served in a cornet de frites (French) or frietzak/fritzak (Dutch), a white cardboard cone, then wrapped in paper, with a good spoonful of sauce on the top. With the fries they serve many traditional fastfood products, such as frikandel/fricadelle, gehaktbal/boulet or kroket/croquette. In the Netherlands, you can find them in a snack bar. They are served mostly with mayonnaise or curry ketchup.
In most of the Netherlands, French Fries are called patat, whereas in the southern Netherlands and in Belgium, they are named 'friet'. In the Netherlands 'Flemish Fries' (Vlaamse friet) is sometimes used for thick fries of good quality.
- Aioli, garlic mayonnaise.
- Sauce Andalouse – mayonnaise with tomato paste and peppers.
- Sauce Americaine – mayonnaise with tomato chervil onions, capers and celery.
- Bicky Dressing (Gele Bicky-sauce), a commercial brand made from mayonnaise, white cabbage, tarragon, cucumber, onion, mustard and dextrose.
- Curry mayonnaise.
- Mammoet-sauce – mayonnaise, tomato, onion, glucose, garlic, soy sauce.
- Peanut sauce – when combined with mayonnaise and optionally raw onion, this is called patat oorlog ("war fries").
- Samurai-sauce – mayonnaise with sambal oelek.
- Sauce "Pickles" – a yellow mayonnaise-based sauce with turmeric, mustard and crunchy vegetable chunks, similar to Piccalilli.
- Pepper-sauce – mayonnaise with green pepper, garlic, glucose.
- Tartar sauce.
- Zigeuner sauce, A "gypsy" sauce of tomatoes, paprika and chopped bell peppers, borrowed from Germany.
These sauces are generally also available in supermarkets. Occasionally hot sauces are offered by friteries, including hollandaise sauce, sauce provençale, Béarnaise sauce or even a splash carbonade flamande stew from an constantly simmering pot, in the spirit of British Chips and Gravy.
Traditionally, chips in the United Kingdom are cut much thicker, i.e., are "chipped" from the potatoes and described in some recipes as chipped potatoes, not simply chips, and are typically between 10 and 15 mm (3/8–1/2 inches) wide. Since the surface-to-volume ratio is lower, they have a lower fat content. Thick-cut, or beefsteak, British chips are occasionally made from unpeeled potatoes to enhance their flavor and nutritional value. Chips are not necessarily served as crisp as the European French fry due to their relatively high water content.
As with all members of the deep-fried chip family, they are cooked twice, once at a relatively low temperature (blanching) to cook the potato, and then at a higher temperature to crisp the surface, making them crunchy on the outside and fluffier on the inside.
The first chips fried in the UK were on the site of Oldham's Tommyfield Market in 1860. A blue plaque in Oldham marks the origin of the fish and chip shop and fast food industries in Britain. In Scotland, chips were first sold in Dundee, "...in the 1870s, that glory of British gastronomy – the chip – was first sold by Belgian immigrant Edward De Gernier in the city’s Greenmarket."
Although chips were already a popular dish in most Commonwealth countries, the thin style of French fries has been popularized worldwide in part by U.S.-based fast food chains such as McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, and Arby's.
Pre-made French fries have been available for home cooking since the 1960s, usually having been pre-fried (or sometimes baked), frozen and placed in a sealed plastic bag.
Some later varieties of French fries are battered and breaded, and many U.S. fast food chains dust the potatoes with kashi, dextrin, and other flavor coatings for crispier fries with particular tastes. Results with batterings and breadings, followed by microwaving, have not achieved widespread critical acceptance. Oven frying delivers a dish different from deep-fried potatoes.
Variants of French fries include thick-cut fries, steak fries, shoestring fries, jojos, crinkle fries, curly fries, hand-cut fries and tornado fries. Fries cut thickly with the skin left on are called potato wedges, and fries without the skin are called steak fries, essentially the American equivalent of the British chip. They can also be coated with breading, spices, or other ingredients, which include garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, paprika, and salt to create seasoned fries, cheese to create cheese fries, or chili to create chili fries. Sometimes, French fries are cooked in the oven as a final step in the preparation (having been coated with oil during preparation at the factory): these are often sold frozen and are called oven fries or oven chips. Some restaurants and groceries in North America offer French fries made from sweet potatoes instead of traditional white potatoes.
In France, the thick-cut fries are called Pommes Pont-Neuf or simply pommes frites, about 10 mm; thinner variants are pommes allumettes (matchstick potatoes), ±7 mm, and pommes paille (potato straws), 3–4 mm (roughly ⅜, ¼ and ⅛ inch respectively). The two-bath technique is standard (Bocuse). Pommes gaufrettes or waffle fries are not typical French fried potatoes, but actually crisps obtained by quarter-turning the potato before each next slide over a grater and deep-frying just once.
In an interview, Burger King president Donald Smith said that his chain's fries are sprayed with a sugar solution shortly before being packaged and shipped to individual outlets. The sugar caramelizes in the cooking fat, producing the golden color customers expect. McDonald's was assumed to fry their fries for a total time of about 15 to 20 minutes, and with fries fried at least twice.
Curly fries are characterized by their spring-like shape. They are generally made from whole potatoes that are cut using a specialized spiral slicer. They are also typically characterized by the presence of additional seasonings (which give the fries a more orange appearance when compared to the more yellow appearance of standard fries), although this is not always the case. This seasoning also gives the fries a slightly spicier taste than standard fries.
Sometimes they are packaged for preparation at home, often in frozen packs. In the US they can also be found at a number of restaurants and fast food outlets like Arby's, Hooters, and Hardee's, where they are served with condiments such as ketchup, cheese, fry sauce, or sweet chili sauce and sour cream.
Tornado fries are made by skewering the whole potato, and then cutting with a specialized spiral slicer. The potato is spread evenly along the skewer and deep fried. The cooking process fuses the potato to the skewer and holds it in place. It is then sprinkled with dry seasonings or served with dipping sauce. The Tornado fry gets its name from the tornado-like shape that the potato has on the skewer.
Fries tend to be served with a variety of accompaniments, e.g., salt and vinegar (malt, balsamic or white), pepper, grated cheese, melted cheese, mushy peas, heated curry sauce, curry ketchup (mildly spiced mix of the former), hot or chili sauce, mustard, mayonnaise, bearnaise sauce, tartar sauce, tzatziki, feta cheese, garlic sauce, fry sauce, ranch dressing, barbecue sauce, gravy, aioli, brown sauce, ketchup, lemon juice, piccalilli, pickled cucumber, pickled gherkins, pickled onions or pickled eggs.
French fries can contain a large amount of fat from frying. For example, fat accounts for 45% of the caloric value of French fries at McDonald's in the United States; since raw potatoes are virtually fat-free, almost all of it comes from the cooking oil that was absorbed by potatoes while frying. A 13 year long observation performed by the University of Maastricht, the Netherlands, on 120,000 subjects between 55 and 70, has shown that increased intake of acrylamide (formed when potatoes are baked or fried) is correlated with a 60% higher rate of kidney cancer. However, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, found no association between the consumption of foods high in acrylamide and increased risk of three forms of cancer: bladder, large bowel and kidney.
Frying French fries in beef tallow, lard, or other animal fats adds saturated fat to the diet. Replacing animal fats with tropical vegetable-oils, such as palm oil, simply substitutes one saturated fat for another. Replacing animal fats with partially hydrogenated oil reduces cholesterol but adds trans fat, which has been shown to both raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. Canola/Rapeseed oil, or sunflower-seed oil are also used, as are mixes of vegetable oils, but beef tallow is generally more popular, especially amongst fast food outlets that use communal oil baths. Many restaurants now advertise their use of unsaturated oils. Five Guys and Chick-fil-A, for example, both advertise that their fries are prepared in peanut oil, while In-N-Out advertises that their fries are made using vegetable oil.
In June 2004, the United States Department of Agriculture, with the advisement of a federal district judge from Beaumont, Texas, classified batter-coated French fries as a vegetable under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. This was primarily for trade reasons. French fries do not meet the standard to be listed as a processed food.
In 2002, the McDonald's Corporation agreed to donate $10 million to Hindu and other groups to settle lawsuits filed against the chain for mislabeling French fries and hash browns as vegetarian, because their French fries and hash browns were found to contain beef extract added during production.
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