Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Grilled Fries

Special treat this time out, folks. A recipe from me, cobbling together a few ideas from here and there, and geared for this weekend's Memorial Day barbeque.

We took russet potatoes, cut them lengthwise, then again, and then again, so they were similar to long potato wedges. Next we threw them in a big bowl and dowsed them in about a half cup of olive oil. Next some salt, pepper, seasoned salt and paprika were thrown in. Then with bare hands you toss the potato wedges like a salad so that all the potatoes get the mixture on them.

For the next step put the bowl in the microwave for five minutes. We're looking for that almost baked potato consistency, but not quite, because the finish is what makes this recipe a barbeque holiday treat. Next stop is the charcoal grill to get those amazing grill lines and make them golden brown. Plate them and enjoy, crispy grilled on the outside, soft hot baked potato on the inside. Mmmm... Happy Memorial Day!

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Crispy Potato Soft Taco?

Something special today, folks, a guest blog from friend and fellow writer Terry Willitts:


This is the Crispy Potato Soft Taco from Taco Bell’s value menu. Take a moment, get past the initial reaction of “What?” and think about it. Read the description. Potato bites. Jalapeno ranch. Lettuce and cheese.

It’s a winning combination. The potato bites are seasoned just right, but the jalapeno ranch has an afterburn that will please anyone who likes the tangy side of life. They’re warm and soft with a crispy coating, and the mix with the ranch and the lettuce and cheese and the soft taco shell = win.

And you can’t beat that they’re cheap.

Even on a warm day, it’s a good snack or part of a meal. I went today, after a workout at the gym, and cashed in my coupon for a free limeade, and spent a couple bucks on this and a taco and had a nice light lunch! If they still have this in the cooler weather, it would be a great way to warm up on a cold day.

Also, the limeade? Very limey. The coupon is still available at the Taco Bell website – click here – you have to print it up (make sure you have Java on your computer) and use it soon. The one I printed had an expiration date of June 1st.


The above appeared in slightly different form at Terry’s blog, make sure you check it out. Thanks, man!

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Guy Fieri's Fried German Potato Salad

For this week's Food Network Fridays, we have the master Guy Fieri again, just in time for the holiday weekend - his Fried German Potato Salad! Here's the recipe from the episode "Why Wait for Oktoberfest?" on "Guy's Big Bite":

Fried German Potato Salad

6 Yukon gold potatoes, medium size, cut into large dice
8 ounces thick sliced bacon, cut into pieces
Canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 red onion, diced
2 tablespoons capers, drained
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Put diced potatoes into a pot and fill with cold water (water should just cover the potatoes). Put pot on stove on medium flame and add salt. When water comes to a boil, and the potatoes are cooked, drain the potatoes and spread out on a side towel to dry. While potatoes are doing their thing, add bacon to a large saute pan and cook over a low/medium flame. When the bacon is cooked remove with a slotted spoon and drain the bacon fat, reserving some if you want to add it later. Wipe out the pan with a wad of paper towels (and crank up the heat), add a decent amount of a neutral oil, like canola, and heat it until you get some smoke.

Once the oil is hot, carefully add the potatoes and shake the pan a couple of times to make sure nothing sticks. Lower the heat a little and let the potatoes brown. Season with salt and pepper.

After a few minutes, shake the pan and get the other sides going. When the potatoes are almost completely cooked, add the red onion and let everything cook together. Once the onions are caramelized, add the capers, red wine vinegar and deglaze. When the vinegar is mostly evaporated, add the extra-virgin olive oil, mustard and bacon (and reserved bacon fat if you want), re-season with lots of cracked black pepper. Serve warm.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

French Fry Diary 114: Brad’s Raw Chips

I saw this truck on a recent trip to Whole Foods to pick up, what else, Russet potatoes to make homemade French fries. I was instantly interested. Now while unfortunately I saw no Brad’s Raw Chips when I went into the store, I immediately checked out their website when I got home.

Brad’s Raw Chips are potato chips of a sort – it’s just that they are made from just about everything but potatoes. From their website:

Made from fresh vegetables and fruits, sprouted flax seeds, and buckwheat groats, Brad’s Raw Chips are dehydrated, not baked, to maintain the living enzymes your body was meant to digest.

This delicious snack comes in 11 flavors, all available through our online store... Brad’s Raw Chips are the snack you’ll feel good about eating.

The flavors include beet, red bell pepper, sun dried tomato, kale, sweet potato and even cheddar – but no potato. Check them out.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Super Delicious Ingredient Force: Episode 1

This apparent ad for Taco Bell features design by comics legend Neal Adams, based on Alex Toth's classic work, a parody of the old “Super Friends” show, and French fries as bad guys. Wow. I have no words....

Props to buddy Ray for hipping me to this.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

French Fry Diary 113: White Castle, Toms River NJ

Reputedly the first fast food hamburger chain, White Castle has been around for almost ninety years. They’re open 24 hours a day, so that means French fries any time of the day or night – how can there be a downside to this? For just a buck or so you get a cool little box of deep-fried crinkle cuts, perfect for car-munching.

They do get cold real quick however, and do not nuke well. Do not put them in the microwave unless you want sucky fries – soggy or rock hard, depending on how long you set the timer for. It’s just not a good idea. On the upside, they are great for three AM cravings.

Mad dashes in the middle of the night are really what White Castle is all about though. The food is good, but it’s not about the food, it’s about the experience. Like a few weeks ago, friends and I were discussing this French Fry Diary thing, and as always happens when you talk about food – you get hungry. Problem was, it was late, where can you get fries this time of night? That’s right, White Castle.

After locating the semi-closest restaurant, an hour away in Toms River, we were off. The Bride, the Dark Crystal, Jeff and myself drove all the way up to Toms River and met Ray and his bride CL at the 24/7 White Castle there – all this at about two in the morning. A flash of spontaneity, and boom – a middle of the night French Fry Diary roadtrip.

Again, as I said, the fries are standard crinkle cuts that come in those tiny cardboard boxes that everything at White Castle comes in. Good and hot, but it’s the camaraderie that makes White Castle what it is. The 24’7 is most important, and like the movie Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, it’s the journey that counts.

The onion rings are standard diced onion type of onion rings you might find in the grocers freezer, but again, it’s the journey, and the boxes, and the company, and the middle of the night (or anytime). And the onion rings are better than Burger King’s and that’s saying something.

Other goodies that were had on this trip were the chicken rings, and of course those wonderful Sliders, best little hamburger you can get in the middle of the night and eat half a dozen. And don’t forget to read the fun facts on the bottom of the boxes.

The only complaint I might have is related to the perils of being open 24/7 – and that would be the smelly homeless man that was sitting behind us. We didn’t think he was dead but he might have been. That’s okay, he didn’t smell all that much.

All in all, White Castle is recommended, for a variety of reasons, and not all of them food-related. Great experience not matter how you cut it.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

More Brian Boitano!

Last week for Food Network Fridays we took a look at Brian Boitano’s Pimp My Fries. In the week since I have learned that his Food Network show, cleverly named “What Would Brian Boitano Make?” was only a limited series. Sadness all around, as I and a number of my friends loved the show and Brian’s cool attitude and wonderful recipes – whether they included the favorite fried food or not.

This week, I’m asking other fans of the show out there to contact Food Network and let them know you’d like to see more Brian Boitano! Go here to comment from Brian’s website, or here to email Food Network directly.

French Fry Diary wants to see more of “What Would Brian Boitano Make?”!

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

French Fry Diary 112: Sal’s Pizzaworks

Sal’s Pizzaworks is a local pizza place we order from a lot in Marlton NJ. Great steak sandwiches and Panzarottis. We always get fries with them, well, you have to, how can you not, really? They just go together. Any order we make, we always get fries.

Sal’s has consistently good regular cuts, like the kind you can buy at the supermarket, and deep-fried. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, because they are always good. They know how to make fries. Simple doesn’t count against you, especially if they’re good.

As we always order in or pick-up, the fries always come in those tin pie plate diner thingies. They’re ideal to pop in the oven to reheat (take off the plastic cover first!), which these fries do quite well. The servings are substantial so there is always enough for a snack later.

Sal’s also has onion rings, sadly also from the grocers’ freezer but without the care given the fries. They’re not horrible, but they’re not great either. They are better than Burger King’s, which is saying something. And the onion rings are terrific if added to a Sal’s burger or steak sandwich.

Sal’s Pizzaworks – simple but substantial – recommended.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Baked Potato Soup

from Mastercook

4 large baking potatoes
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
6 cups milk
4 green onions -- chopped
12 slices bacon -- cooked and crumbled
1 ¼ cups Cheddar cheese -- shredded
1 container sour cream -- (8 oz.)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Bake potatoes until done.
Cut in half lengthwise.
Scoop out pulp and set aside.
Melt butter in heavy saucepan over low heat; add flour, stirring until smooth.
Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Gradually add milk, stirring over medium heat until thick and bubbly.
Add potato pulp, salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons of the green onion, 1/2 cup bacon and 1 cup cheese.
Cook until heated thoroughly and stir in sour cream.
Add more milk if necessary (but it should be served thick).
Serve with remaining green onions, bacon and cheese on top.
Yield: 10 cups.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

French Fry Diary 111: Iron Skillet

After attending the Mid-Jersey Comic Con, we decided to truck on over to the nearby Petro truckstop and have lunch at the Iron Skillet.

The place near Trenton and Bordentown was surprisingly truckstop-ish, but then again what else would you expect from a truckstop? The air was filled with a mix of coutry and western music with a bit of rockabilly added just for fun. It was hard to imagine we were still in New Jersey, let alone close to Trenton.

I was kinda weirded out by the utensils in a paper bag. No Coke, but the Pepsi is served in not just a glass but an additional small pitcher as well. Lots of ice so it’s not as good, or as bad, as you would think. There was a little bit of a wait, but the company and conversation were good.

When the fries arrived, they were served on quite literally on an iron skillet. They were shoestrings, crispy but greasy, nothing spectacular really. These were grocery store frozen fries, deep-fried. Some were quite hard, so hard I couldn’t even stab them with a fork. Hell, I could make fries this crappy at home on a bad day all by myself.

Where were the onion straws that were so good the last time I visited an Iron Skillet? I didn’t see them on the menu. They would have surely made up for these sub-par fries. Iron Skillet – great for atmosphere, and for the soda, but don’t come for the fries.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Brian Boitano's Pimp My Fries

This week on Food Network Fridays we're featuring my favorite new Food Network star, Olympic ice skater Brian Boitano.

His show "What Would Brian Boitano Make?" is seen Sunday afternoons on the network and is a lot of fun. Boitano's over the top, funny, and believe it or not, down to earth style make it a pleasure to watch. And the recipes rock as well.

The most recent episode, "Guy's Ride," features the favorite fried food. Brian's 'Pimp My Fries' is a double-fried treat that proves that the man knows his way around a French fry. You can check out his recipe here.

And yeah, the title of the show is a play on the song "What Would Brian Boitano Do" from "South Park." For me, that just makes it that much cooler. You go, Brian!

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

French Fry Diary 110: Monk’s Café, Philadelphia

If there are any "Seinfeld" fans reading this, I bet you thought the same thing I thought – that this was the coffee shop from the show. Sorry, no chance, but trust me, this is better. This Monk’s Café is the Belgian Beer Emporium and Restaurant in Philadelphia.

When friends and family invited us out to this place for Easter this year I was excited as I had heard of Monk’s before and had even gotten recommendations from a couple readers about their Pommes Frites. Yeah, that’s right, baby, real Belgian fries. Unfortunately, while this was a Belgian restaurant, these were not Belgian fries – but that doesn’t mean they weren’t terrific.

More bar and beer-centric in a German way than Belgian, Monk’s was still a very cozy place. It’s so beer-centric that there’s even a "Beer Bible" on the table, thicker than the menu. After I had ordered the chicken fingers, I saw the burgers and knew I had made a mistake. Not that the chicken wasn’t fantastic, but the burgers looked amazing. Regardless, it’s the favorite fried food we’re here to discuss.

As I said these weren’t really pomme frites, even though that’s what the menu indicated. These were extra thin shoestrings, natural cut, and cooked in olive oil – Spanish fries, similar to the ones at Nodding Head. They were soggy, but in a good way, just crispy enough and very hot in temperature. They had that extra kick that Spanish fries have, I wished I could have had more even though the helping was plentiful.

The beer-battered chicken fingers were quite good as well, but next time I’m getting a burger – and of course more fries. Recommended.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

French Fry Diary 109: Poll Results Spring 2010

The poll question of the moment on French Fry Diary for the last few months has been Best thing to put -on- fries, or dip fries -into-... Your answers are below:

Ketchup got 45% of the vote and cheese got 39%. These are the standards. Everybody likes ketchup (apparently, even though I don’t) and cheese fries are pretty darned popular. Next up is malt vinegar with 27% of the vote. These folks are either from the UK, have visited there or just stumbled upon this one. Similarly also from Europe, we get the mayo vote with 15%.

A notable 11% also like dipping their fries into their milkshakes just like I do. And we’ve talked about this before, I might be an oddball, but I’m not alone. One of my other favorites, barbeque sauce got a respectable 17%.

The pride of Canada, gravy, and disco chili fries each got 13%. Chocolate and maple syrup each pulled in 3%, while mustard, ew, got 11% of the vote. A recent favorite of mine, honey, which I’ve been putting on baked Nathan’s fries while they cook for an extra tasty sweet treat, got 7%.

Now ten percent of the vote went to ‘other.’ Now if you voted for ‘other,’ please do drop me a note and let me know what exactly you had in mind for your fries – I would love to know!

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

French Fry Diary 108: The Crinkle Cutter

After seeing the Racing Chef make really quick crinkle cut fries the other night on Speed, I decided I needed one of these handy devices. A trip to Kitchen Kapers later and I had one and was ready to try it.

It was everything promised and made amazing (but short) crinkle cut French fries, which I immediately cooked in the deep fryer and ate. Very satisfied with both purchase and final product. Money well spent, fries well eaten.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

Iron Man 2... Sort Of...

I took this picture last Saturday, Free Comic Book Day, at my favorite comics shop, All Things Fun!. I figured it would be apropros for today, the American release of Iron Man 2.

That's right, it's an Iron Man 2 Mr. Potato Head. And I love the name - Tony Starch. Perfect. Although I have to wonder if the folks at Hasbro thought of maybe different armors as well as different faces, etc. That would be even more perfect, if such a thing was grammatically possible.

That's French Fry Diary for today. I'm off to see Iron Man 2, because if there's one thing I'm geekier about than French fries, it's comics!

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

French Fry Diary 107: Oh Yoko!

Being a catastrophically picky eater, I’m not one to stray from the standard American cuisine, but I like some Japanese cooking, especially when they do it on a grill. I was checking out Oh Yoko! for their grilling and also because of the cool name and then I saw what hooked me – they had fries!

Yoko Wasabi Fries – crispy seasoned potatoes with a Wasabi base sauce $7.95

I was sold and we were off. Oh Yoko! is a very nice place squeezed into the same shopping center as Andreotti’s and Big Cheez, and it’s a great little place. They need better signage so folks don’t miss out on what could be a great eating experience.

The atmosphere is terrific, and just as might be expected, the décor is a mix of traditional Oriental alternated with photos of the Beatles, John Lennon and Yoko Ono – what a clever theme. The music on the overhead speakers even reflects the Lennon concept. We had not even been served yet and I love this restaurant.

The waiter was extremely friendly and helpful, especially to this theoretical novice to Japanese food. He explained all the dishes, and that the sauces were all homemade, and when he saw me struggling with the chopsticks he even gave me a Fun Chop chopstick helper attachment to make it easier.

When the fries arrived I learned very quickly that wasabi is hot, very hot. I don’t know if I can describe how hot, but wow, and that’s a good wow. It burns at first taste but is very pleasant afterward. So good that I kept eating after the first burn – so let me clarify – it’s a good hot and a good burn. I was a wasabi virgin before today but The Bride assures me that this was sensational wasabi sauce.

The fries themselves are very thin potato sticks, quite similar to those at the Continental. They’re crispy, but not too crispy, just right. It was a large portion, with the wasabi hitting all of them, which was good. It was hard to find any fries that did not have sauce on them, good distribution. When I did find one or two without sauce, they were just as good.

For my actual meal, I had the yakitori chicken with teriyaki sauce, which was great, and dessert was vanilla ice cream with tempura fried banana... mmm... This was a terrific meal and experience. We will definitely be back, highly recommended, and not just for the fries.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Asian-Style Oven-Fried Sweet Potatoes

Tempura veggies move over! These sweet potato wedges pack great Asian flavor and crunch without frying. From Eat Better America.

Prep Time: 10 min
Start to Finish: 40 min
Makes: 4 servings (3 to 4 pieces each)

1/3 cup Progresso® panko crispy bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon coarse (kosher or sea) salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large dark-orange sweet potato (1 lb), peeled, cut crosswise in half, then cut into 3x3/4-inch wedges
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1. Heat oven to 400°F. Line 15x10x1-inch pan with foil; spray with cooking spray.
2. In small bowl, mix bread crumbs, salt, garlic powder and ginger. In large bowl, place potatoes, oil and pepper flakes; toss to coat. Add crumb mixture; toss to coat.
3. Spread potatoes in single layer in pan; sprinkle any remaining crumb mixture on potatoes.
4. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until crumbs are golden brown and potatoes wedges are tender.

High Altitude (3500-6500 ft): No change.

Nutritional Information

1 Serving: Calories 130 (Calories from Fat 40); Total Fat 4 1/2g (Saturated Fat 0g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 115mg; Total Carbohydrate 21g (Dietary Fiber 2g, Sugars 5g); Protein 2g % Daily Value*: Vitamin A 270%; Vitamin C 10%; Calcium 2%; Iron 4% Exchanges: 1/2 Starch; 1 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 1 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 1 1/2 MyPyramid Servings: 1 tsp Fats & Oils, 1/2 c Vegetables

*% Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

French Fry Diary 106: Ninety-Nine 99

A few weeks back we were headed to Deptford anyway for a movie date night, so we figured we’d try something new, the Ninety-Nine 99 restaurant.

This place is right where the old Ground Round in Deptford used to be, and it was kinda weird as I was seeing ghosts of the Ground Round frequently on this visit. It didn’t look like there had been much remodeling done, save for the signs throughout with reasons 1-99 about (I guess) why 99 is so great. Interesting idea, but why sell the restaurant to people who are already inside?

The ghosts continued as we were brought popcorn as an appetizer, just like GR used to do. The place has a huuuge menu, Gordon Ramsey would hate them, and served Pepsi rather than Coke. The Bride and I also learned that discount movie tickets came with the meal and that made our date night even better.

I got the sirloin tips and chicken tenders, which not only came with fries, it also came with a thick honey bbq sauce. It was tangy with just a hint of citrus, and hot enough to stay with you, so have that Pepsi handy. The fries were unspectacular natural cuts. They were supposed to have Old Bay seasoning, but I never tasted it.

The serving sizes were just as huge as the menu, and we had to take it home. Yeah, Gordon really would have hated this place. I didn’t think it was too bad, I kinda liked it. All around great dinner and experience – discount movie tickets were a bonus – and the fries were just okay.

We may be making a return trip however based on recent ads about 99’s "Real Size Entrees," one of which features different-looking fries served in a metal cup along side a steak. Those fries look interesting...

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