07/11/2011

Chips!

Chips? That's Fries, French Fries or Pommes Frites in other popular languages - the key difference is, the English Chipped Potato (Chip) is cut much thicker than its European and North American counterparts.

Chips represent a huge pack of carbohydrate and fat energy with a potentially high glycemic load ... unless they're eaten with fat. Simply put, fat slows the digestive process dramatically lowering the glycemic load.

Want to know more? Check out J Stanton's article on Fat and the Glycemic Index: The Myth of Complex Carbohydrates.

What you fry your potatoes in is vitally important - saturated fats are the best!

Dripping is the perfect fat for deep frying and in the UK we are very fortunate to see Britannia brand dripping on the shelves of our popular supermarkets. Britannia brand dripping is an additive-free pure beef dripping block.

Dripping has a higher smoke point than either ghee or lard, something like 280C compared to 250C for ghee, 180C for lard or 175C for butter.

Furthermore, the Rancimat analysis shows dripping to be a far superior fat when it comes to frying. The Rancimat analysis is the time taken in hours for fat molecules to form volatile organic acids. While sunflower oil will become volatile after a mere 3 hours, dripping can go to almost 40 hours! It can be seen that beef dripping has high oxidative stability compared with vegetable oils.

Another useful fat is palm oil - with a smoke point of 235C and 23 hours of frying time, it is quite equivalent to dripping on paper ... but it's about the taste!

Duck fat provides the key flavour component for French Fries, which are actually Belgian and known as Pommes Frites on mainland Europe, and dripping is the key flavour for Northern English Fish & Chips.

Dripping is the right fat to use, but what about the potatoes?

Waxy potatoes hold their moisture when cooked and retain their shape. Floury potatoes fall apart easily when cooked and lend themselves more to mashing. Too waxy, and the chip is not soft in the middle. Finding a potato which meets the middle balance of enough softness with just enough firmness to retain shape makes the perfect chip.

There is one variety of potato which finds this balance perfectly - the Maris Piper.

One final thing - the fryer.

I think it is safe to say that most people do not have a fridge that they can keep a large deep fat fryer in, but a litre in a container should easily fit in somewhere. With dripping, it is important to keep it refrigerated between use so that it does not go rancid.

I use a small fryer with a litre capacity of oil - this is perfect for a small portion of chips for two, or a large portion for one. These portions are paleo-sized - we do not want to eat a lot of carbohydrate as part of a balanced meal and should guard against over-consumption of carbohydrate through limiting portions.

So, to work ...

Peel the potatoes well and then slice them on the length or across the width about half an inch thick to produce a pile of similarly sized chips.

We're going to go for the triple-cooked method.

Boil the chips in water for a few minutes - I go for around 5 minutes.

Take the dripping from the fridge and scrape it into the fryer - set the fryer to around 175C.

Once the chips have boiled for a few minutes, drain them off and allow them to steam dry for a couple of minutes, patting with kitchen paper just to remove all the excess water. Chef Heston Blumenthal likes to chill the chips in the fridge to firm up at this point, but we're home cooks - we're going to get straight on with it.

Immerse the chips in the dripping at 175C for around 10 minutes, or until they start to float - this is the second stage of cooking and the stage which puts the flavour into the chips.

Remove the chips from the dripping and set the temperature to 190C.

Once up to temperature, immerse the chips in the dripping at 190C for a couple of minutes - this will give them a deep golden colour.

Retrieve the chips and spread out over kitchen paper to soak off the excess fat.

While the fat is still liquid, pour it back out into the container that you use to store it in the fridge and allow it to air cool for an hour, or so, before returning it to the fridge. The fryer can be wiped out and washed clean.

Needless to say, this method can be used for skinny chips - that's fries, if you've not heard the term skinny chips before. The same temperatures can be used for matchstick chips, although the initial boiling is not necessary; likewise, for other root vegetables - rutabaga, swede, carrot and parsnips, or even with sweet potatoes, butternut squash or pumpkin!

Serve out with a few ground crystals of sea salt to accompany your favourite meat and green vegetables. Delicious!

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