Author Notes: Think gastro pub. This recipe is inspired by and dedicated to the memory of the late R.W. “Johnny” Apple, a man of enormous girth and intelligence and appetite to go with it. Apple was one of the finest food writers of our time, and I recall him once referring to “line caught” frites deep fried in peanut oil and lard. My eyes rolled back in ecstasy like St. Teresa when I read that description. So for the sweet potato challenge I’m offering waffle cut sweets.
To achieve the waffle cuts you will need a mandolin aka Robespierre deploying the crinkle edge of the blade. Half turns of the potato give you the proper cut. The proportion of oil to lard is about two to one. How much you will need of each depends on the size of your cooking vessel. It should be about 5 qt size and preferably cast iron. If you own a fryolator, hey even better. The thing is that you should have about 3 inches deep of oil to work with but it shouldn’t come close to the top or you might possibly die when you add the frites. So it’s all about ratio; oil to lard to size of pot.
Other necessary tools, a large Chinese “spider” (but one which will fit in your pot), and a rack to rest the spider on between cooking stages.
As a condiment I recommend an aioli (recipe provided below) or harissa or both in tandem. If you want to go crazy try them with kimchi. Believe me, it’s great. Begin by making your aioli and set that aside until you are ready to go frites. - pierino
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 egg at room temperature
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pimenton (piment d'esplette preferred)
- Pinch of saffron threads
- If you are total cro-magnon you can make this with mortar and pestle. If not, a good blender, something on the order of KitchenAid, makes a fine aioli. Chop the garlic and place it in your blender with the egg and kosher salt. Depending on your blender speed, hit “mix” first. Stop, and then with speed set at “stir” gradually drizzle the olive oil in through the cap at the top of your blender. This will take a minute or so before it becomes mayonnaise.
- Spoon the aioli into a bowl. Using a fork beat in the pimenton and pinch of saffron threads. Set aside at room temperature until ready to use.
Sweet Potato Frites
- 1 pound sweet potato peeled
- 2 cups peanut oil
- 1 cup rendered lard (see note to cook)
- Fleur de sel
- Finely chopped parsley (optional)
- Using the “crinkle” edge of the mandolin blade, slice the sweet potato, as many slices as you desire.
- Heat the oil to about 370˚, checking temperature with a candy thermometer.
- Work in batches. Place the waffle sliced sweets in the web of a spider (hah!) and deposit into the hot oil which will bubble up immediately. The slices will float to the top. Watch them to make sure that they don’t burn. Scoop them out in a single batch with the spider and lay the spider and its contents on a rack to rest for two to three minutes. Promptly return them to oil to finish, about 1 minute more. Watch like a hawk.
- Scoop out the slices again, and depending on how you are presenting, place them on a plate, in a bowl or whatever lined with paper, parchment or naked. Season with fleur de sel and parsely if using.
- Repeat with remaining slices, first rechecking the temperature of the oil.
- Serve with your preferred condiment.
- Note to cook: I prefer to use leaf lard, which I render in a cast iron skillet. The skin makes nice cracklings and leftover lard can be refrigerated indefinitely and used for pastry. Manteca is an acceptable but not necessarily desirable alternative. It has a pretty strong aroma along the lines of tortilla chips.