Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More Wendy's Madness

This is from PotatoPro, a website that services and reports on the potato industry:

"Wendy’s Skin-On Fries Part of Healthy Fast Food Push

"United States, August 26, 2010

"Wendy’s/Arby’s Group is taking the Wendy’s restaurant slogan “Quality is Our Recipe” to a new level – this time, with all-natural French fries in test markets.

"And interestingly, the new recipe comes at a time when Wendy’s French fries are already popular. A recent Zagat survey ranked Wendy’s fries fourth best, behind McDonald’s, Five Guys and In-N-Out Burger.

"So why would Wendy’s make the change to an already successful snack? Simple: The move comes amid a flurry of other menu changes at fast-food restaurants that push for higher quality, healthful and natural ingredients.

"Here are the details on the natural fries, and which Wendy’s test markets are offering them:

"The snack consists of skin-on strips of real potato, cooked in special oil and are topped with sea salt. The oil is used specifically for cooking these new fries, and Wendy’s has even passed up table salt for the more natural evaporated sea salt. Wendy’s is currently testing the fries, in Florida, North Carolina and Louisiana."

The full article appears here. Sounds like the Health Nazis are at it again...

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Zagat Names Best French Fries

The Zagat Guide released their list for the best in fast food. According to The Consumerist: "Earlier this year, the burgers at quickly growing fast foodatrorium Five Guys made the Center for Science in the Public Interest's list of most calorie-filled meals in the country. Perhaps that's why the voters at the Zagat Guide recently chose Five Guys as the best burger in the country.

"In a survey of 6,500 fast food fans, Five Guys beat out all other burger chains for top honors, followed by In-N-Out -- last year's winner -- in second place. Rounding out the top five were, in order, Wendy's, Burger King then McDonald's.

"Among full-service chain restaurants, Red Robin reigned supreme. The rest of the top five were Stake 'n Shake, Cheesecake Factory, Ruby Tuesday and Chili's.

"Of course, what good are burgers without fries? And while Five Guys might be noted for drowning your burger in a sea of fresh-cut french fries, it still wasn't enough to be out McDonald's for the fry crown.

"The Golden Arches also took home gold medals in Best Value, Best Value Menu, Best Breakfast Sandwiches. And yet Wendy's was still voted Top Overall and Top Food among "Mega Chain" (over 5,000 location) eateries.

"The full results can be found here."

Also according to The Consumerist, as a possible result of this vote, Wendy's is now testing natural cut fries in Florida, North Carolina and Louisiana. They have been apparently getting rave reviews, but quite honestly in my opinion, there was nothing wrong with Wendy's old fries.

Two things - I'd better get to Wendy's and review their fries before they make a big mistake and change them, and In-N-Out Burger better open some east coast restaurants.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

French Fry Diary 138: Jack 'n Jill Potato Chips, Barbeque Flavor

I go to the Asian Food Market a lot. I know this might surprise some of you out there, but even though I am a catastrophically picky eater, I do like to cook. And an amazing variety of interesting spices and other fun stuff can be had at these Asian places that you can't find at your friendly neighborhood Shop Rite or even Whole Foods.

This particular trip to the Asian Food Market in Barclay Center on Route 70 was to find my current white whale - French fries in a can. This Calbee and/or Jagabee product has been eluding me for quite some time, and this trip didn't prove successful either. If anyone knows where I can find these things in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area, please let me know.

However I did pick up a couple bags of Jack 'n Jill Potato Chips, specifically the Barbeque Flavor ones. Despite the name, Jack 'n Jill is part of a huge corporation called Universal Robina in the Phillipines, and that's pretty much why the Asian Food Market is the only place I've seen these chips.

The chips have a mild but appropriately hot regular barbeque flavor, but there is something else about them - a grainy yet not unpleasant something extra. A quick look at the ingredients shows all the normal bbq chip stuff and two other things. Palm oil is different and also rusk powder, which comes from an Asian and African biscuit similar to milk toast. Interesting.

I like them. And at a buck a bag, the price is right, especially when I couldn't find what I was initially looking for. Thank you, Asian Food Market!

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baked Potato and Bacon Soup

Baked Potato and Bacon Soup

5 1/4 pounds baking potatoes
7 bacon slices
4 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
7 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1 1/4 cups sliced green onions
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) finely shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400F for 1 hour or until tender. Cool slightly. Partially mash potatoes, including skins, with a potato masher; set aside. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add onion to bacon drippings in pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add salt, garlic, and bay leaf; sauté 2 minutes. Add potato, milk, pepper, and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in parsley, if desired. Top individual servings with bacon, green onions, and cheese.

Yield: 18 servings.

From the Just-Potatoes Yahoo! Group

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

French Fry Diary 137: Bar Food Paradise

Usually when I talk about a cable channel here at French Fry Diary, it's the Food Network or even the new Cooking Channel. Not today, today we're looking at a program on the Travel Channel. It's called "Bar Food Paradise" and they highlighted two places of great interest to enthusiasts of the favorite fried food.

I'll let the folks at the Travel Channel take it from here:

"In 1979, nachos underwent an Irish rebirth. At J. Gilligan's Bar and Grill in Arlington, Texas, Irish potatoes, cheese, peppers, onions and jalapeños are combined in a skillet to create an unlikely bar food favorite. The dish caught on instantly, and now J. Gilligan's goes through 3,600 potatoes and 80 pounds of cheddar a week. Whether it's your game-time snack, your dinner or a late-night indulgence, the Irish nachos never fail to satisfy.

"Sunny Santa Monica, California may seem a bizarre setting for an Irish pub, but Finn McCool's is the genuine article. Owner Geraldine Gilliland painstakingly brought every piece of the famous bar over from Ireland, including the timber for the bar, the artifacts on the walls, and the lads and lasses slinging pints behind the bar. It's not just the Irish cheer and the Guinness that bring people to Finn's -- it's their potato skins. The secret ingredient that makes these skins so good is lean Irish bacon. Topped with freshly grated horseradish in sour cream, they simply can't be beat."

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

French Fry Diary 136: Deep Fry Secrets

I've presented a lot of recipes and videos and advice on making French fries here on FFD, but one of the questions I get most frequently is – how do I make French fries? Well, here you go, a quick primer in my methods and secrets. Enjoy.

First you have to get some potatoes. Russets are the best potato for making French fries, and not those wimpy things you find at Shop-Rite either – you need those big bad boys you get at Whole Foods or Wegman's. We're talking about Russet potatoes about five to six inches long and about two to three inches wide. Serious potatoes.

Sometimes I'll blanche them very quickly or throw them in the microwave for half a minute. This will make them soft and fluffy inside after the frying, but it's an optional step. Peel 'em or don't, but make sure you wash 'em. If you leave the skins on, rumor says you get more vitamins. It's a fact that the skins have high fiber content and antioxidants, but come on now, we're talking about making French fries – be healthy at your own risk.

Next up is the cut. This is a personal preference. Shoestrings are ¼" thick, regular cuts are ½" thick. You can go thicker or thinner as you wish, just remember, thin cooks faster and thick slower. Sometimes I'll scallop them, or just dice 'em up in chunks. Again, this part is all your choice. Just keep them uniform. Any odd sizes or bits will cook unevenly and at a different pace from the others. The oddballs can be used to test the oil, or be mashed up later for hash browns, mashed potatoes or some other kind of tater treat.

Once you've cut your potatoes, put them in water. And by that, I mean submerge them in ice water or just really cold water. Let 'em sit for a bit. That will help get the starch out of them, and also help them get that golden brown color in the frying process. While the fries are soaking, this is a great time to add a little bit of flavor. Sometimes some sugar in the water can add a sweet kick. Also for that special Boardwalk taste you can add just a bit of squeezed lemon or lemon juice.

Once the fries have soaked in the water for a while – anywhere from five to ten minutes to overnight – dry them really well before firing up the deep fryer. You're almost ready to go. I use a Rival CF156 deep fryer because I'm hardcore into fries. There are other deep fryers, the Fry Baby is good, the Fry Daddy is better, but I'll stick with my Rival. You can even use a wok (electric or otherwise) or just a deep frying pan or pot.

Heat your oil to approximately 325 degrees. Peanut oil is best, with canola and sunflower oil coming in a close second. You can even go with vegetable oil. If you want the kick of Spanish fries, you could even use olive oil. And don't forget to change your oil often. Your deep fryer is just like your car engine – take care of it and it'll take care of you.

When the oil is heated to the proper temperature, put your fries in, in small batches, being very careful of spattering oil. Cook for about five to ten minutes and then bring them out and let them drain. The fries will be darker than before but not yet golden brown. This is called the par-fry, or partial fry. Frozen store fries are already par-fried when you buy them – ready to eat, if you so please, fun fact.

Once the fries are completely drained, you have a choice. You can take the easy way out and put them on a cookie sheet and bake them the rest of the way. No shame in that, great crispy crunch and tender fluffy insides – and for the health-conscious, less oil exposure. The fries are very good like that, but for the pros, you gotta do the shock fry.

Shock frying is a second fry at 375 degrees for just two or three minutes. This is the bad boy that turns the fries that coveted golden brown color and seals in the hot fluffy potato insides. From there you can go darker and crispier as desired. Just don't burn them. If you do that, you'll know, and know better for the next batch.

When the fries come out of the hot oil, drop them on paper towels to dry and drain, or better yet, on a cookie rack over paper towels so the grease doesn't stay next to the fries. Again, a step for the healthy folks, but a smart one too. You want to taste fries, not fried. Hit them with salt and other seasonings as soon as they get out of the oil, so it sticks.

Put the fries on a plate and enjoy. That's the easy step, and the best one. And that's basically how I make fries, and a few of my deep fry secrets. Hope it helps.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Deep-Fried Potato Balls

Deep-Fried Potato Balls - Northeast China Style

Recipe By :
Serving Size : 1 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Potatoes/Fried

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------
1 pound potatoes (500 g)
1 tablespoon flour (100 g)
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
5 teaspoons salt -- or to taste
1/2 teaspoon scallions -- chopped
1/2 teaspoon ginger -- chopped
2 cups vegetable oil for deep-frying (500 ml)
1/4 teaspoon spiced pepper-salt
1/4 teaspoon MSG

1.Wash and boil the potatoes, then peel and mash them. Mix well with the flour, five-spice power, salt, MSG, scallions and ginger. Form into small balls.

2.Heat the oil in wok to moderately hot, 230oF(110oC). Add the potatoes balls a few at a time and deep-frying until brown. Remove, drain and sprinkle with spiced pepper-salt.

Brought to you by Grassroots Recipes Mastercook Collections and Jamie Rahm

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

French Fry Diary 135: Lay's Tangy Carolina BBQ Potato Chips

I'm a big fan of honey barbeque sauce, and barbeque sauce in general. It's just fantastic on French fries. Recently I had the chance to sample some honey barbeque potato chips from Lay's but haven't been able to find them. While looking however, I found these - Lay's Tangy Carolina BBQ potato chips.

Now usually when it comes to the word 'tangy' it's used as an advertisement or a promise rather than an actual adjective for taste. These babies however are tangy, just like the bag says. The seasoning is very hot and very sweet, and will open up your sinuses.

The taste reminds me very much of the late lamented Rib-It restaurant chain. Their barbeque sauce was perfect for their steak fries. They are much missed, but here is a wonderful reminder, these chips will make you miss Rib-It even more, but at least you'll be able to taste a hint of their old bbq sauce. Recommended.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Michael Chiarello's Best Ever Potato Fritters

For today's Food Network Friday we're looking at a version of the favorite fried food by Chef Michael Chiarello. He's famous for his Bottega Restaurant in the Napa Valley in California, and his Food Network series "Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello" that's infused with his southern Italian heritage and wine country style.

Today' recipe from his TV show, in the episode called "Game Night," is for his Potato and Sage Fritters, supposedly also called the 'best ever' potato fritters. You can find the recipe here, and the video is below:

Mmmm... fritters...

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

French Fry Diary 134: Loews AMC Cinema, Cherry Hill NJ

I hate the Loews AMC Cinema in Cherry Hill. I hate them. I have talked about this more than once on my Welcome to Hell pop culture blog. But unfortunately, sometimes, it's the only place to go to see a certain film, or a film in IMAX or digital 3-D or both. In those times I relent, grumble and take my place in line at the most hated of all movie theaters.

If it's any consolation, it's a movie theater that serves the favorite fried food, so why not kill two birds with one grumbling stone. I got two orders of fries, one with cheese, one without, a regular Icee and a small Coke. That was a twenty-dollar bill. Not counting the movie tickets, or even candy or even a hot dog - that was twenty right there. Then there was the size of the drinks. The counterperson insisted they were small. My jaw is still on the floor, but for the price that Coke better be damned big.

The fries came in cups with plastic forks (which were useless in the dark). The wait time for these fries was about ten minutes, which was weird because they tasted like they were only under a heat lamp for a while instead of fresh from a fryer. One can't see where they come from so there's no way to know which it is.

These natural cut curly fries are either overdone or underdone, and no in between, and fairly greasy. The cheese had an extra spicy kick that was nice at first but became a nasty aftertaste. And they got cold rather quickly. This was not a good fry experience and it got worse.

It's a good thing these Loews fries are meant to be eaten in the dark. After about twenty minutes into the feature I bit into a crunchy thing that was neither potato nor edible. I quickly spit it inconspicuously into a napkin. Good thing it was dark. I did not want to see what it was. Just glad I didn't eat it. That's it for me and fries at Loews. Not recommended.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Twitter Fries

We did this a few times last year, collecting French fry-related Twitter posts together, so let's try this again...

HowStuffWorks: Did you know? Thomas Jefferson introduced America to French fries when he first served them at the White House. http://is.gd/aIzoz

SiousxieBrew Oola is now open for brunch. The parmesan & truffle fries are AWESOME! www.oola-sf.com 860 Folsom Street

clex_monkie89 http://twitpic.com/18sdxo - Denny's calls this cheese fries

SOCHILITETIMES Since when did Long John Silver's start skimping on their fries??? Kinda disappointed right now

awesome92 If jesus ate..i think he would eat carne asada fries.

BradleyTemple The fries in our bag that didn't make it into our fry containers http://twitpic.com/1xnmj9

lindquistryan Nothing like dipping your French fries in an ice cold Frosty, hell yes! http://twitpic.com/1xnmmy

HeyThatsSoTrue Yes, I dip my french fries in my milkshake/frosty, and no its not gross.

OMGwhatateen I eat someone elses french fries on the way home when i'm holding the bag.

NEWS25lancewilk I wish cheeseburgers and french fries and pizza. were good for you

Anthromn What I had at #Towne tonight: bacon wrapped dates, extreme French fries, three types of bread with three types (cont) http://tl.gd/2q4uff

eternalcharm Prime burger with home made fries and pancakes with maple syrup are a MUST :|

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

French Fry Diary 133: HIS Potato Chips

Herr's Potato Chips has been doing this since 2006. Around Father's Day every year they produce special packaging that says "His" instead of "Herr's" just for Father's Day.

Here's what they have to say about it here: "Just in time for Father’s Day, Herr Foods announces the politically correct answer to its popular HERR’S Potato Chips. Introducing HIS Potato Chips, with the same crisp and tasty flavor customers have loved for sixty years.

"“This is a fun way to recognize dads,” said Ed Herr, president of Herr Foods. “Plus we’re supporting a worthwhile cause – the National Fatherhood Initiative.”

"HIS Potato Chips will be available from early May through Father’s Day, June 18. A portion of the sales will benefit NFI, a national project dedicated to increasing the number of involved, responsible fathers.

"One out of every three children in this country grows up without his or her biological father, according to NFI. The non-profit initiative provides education and resources to address the trend.

"“No matter how busy Dad was growing his potato chip business, he always made time for his kids,” said Herr of James Stauffer Herr, founder of the company. “We’re proud to partner with NFI because all kids should have that support system.”"

There are still some of these His Potato Chips products still floating around out there. Check 'em out.

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Monday, August 02, 2010

French Fry Diary 132: Champps Americana, Marlton NJ

There has been a Champps within throwing distance of my home for over a decade, but I had never been there until a couple weeks back with a couple friends, Ken and Marni, both old pros when it comes to accompanying me on French Fry Diary expeditions. We also received a gift card in the mail that day - probably the only reason we went. It was that or Red Lobster that night. I kinda wish we'd gone to the Dead Lobster now...

Champps Americana appears at first glance to be a downscale cross between a Friendly's and a sports bar, and at the time we visited, dinner on a weeknight, the crowd seemed rather sparse. But you'd never know it from the service.

Upon perusing the menu I saw, that while other plates passing by showed Chick-fil-A-like waffle fries, Champps in fact had a choice of either waffle fries or steak fries. After quizzing the waitress I was told that I could not get both, a half and half selection of the two different kinds of fries. Curious. It had to be one or the other. Were the fries cooked to order in specific side-sized portions or was the waitress just stubborn? You decide.

The waffle fries as I said resembled those at Chick-fil-A but maybe smaller and perhaps with a splash of seasoning - but I'll never know. I was extorted into choosing, or ordering two complete portions of fries. I, feeling almost at gunpoint, ordered the steak fries.

We also ordered onion rings as an appetizer. I figured, get as much done as possible, because at this point, I was probably not coming back. The rings were big battered slices with lots of thick onion, in different sizes and very hot, served with a honey mustard sauce. These were actually very good, and the large size of the onion was a nice change of pace you don't see in many places.

The stubborn waitress turned inattentive waitress as we waited for our main course. I had an empty glass for most of the meal. She eventually came through late late in the game. Maybe I had ticked her off by asking about the fries. She didn't seem to want to get me any refills on my Coke 'til the meal was almost over.

The steak fries were slightly slimmer than regular steak fries and also natural cuts. There were also only warm, so they definitely could not have been cooked to order. These fries were soggy, a little greasy and seasoned unevenly. Not spectacular, like the only adequate burger, which was also only warm. A big disappointment. What am I going to do with this gift card now? I'm so not going back...

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