When Nathan, Chris, and I were writing Modernist Cuisine, we knew that two great techniques had recently been created for making French fries: one by Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck in the U.K. and another by Dave Arnold and Nils Norén at the French Culinary Institute. So we decided to include in the book recipes inspired by both of those teams. Our pommes pont-neuf is similar to Blumenthal’s triple-cooked chip. Arnold and Norén built their technique from a Polish researcher, Gra?yna Lisi?ska, who discovered that steeping potatoes in a pectin-dissolving enzyme creates a great fry texture, and that technique is illustrated by our pectinase-steeped fries recipe.
Then we started musing about other methods we could try to make the ultimate French fry. It occurred to me that we had an ultrasonic bath that we hadn’t used much for the book, except as a handy tool for extractions. I thought perhaps the cavitating action of the ultrasound would create an interesting texture in the fries. So, after cooking the potatoes sous vide to a nice, tender consistency, we put them in the ultrasonic bath. And sure enough, the cavitation created thousands of little fissures on the surface of the potato, which effectively released all of the natural potato starch. When we then deep-fried the potatoes, we could see the starch come out and crisp up to form tiny hair-like fuzz on the outside of the fries. They had an amazingly satisfying, crispy texture.
Having succeeded in finding a way to get the natural starch out, it got us thinking about ways to stuff more starch into the potatoes. We realized that we could use vacuum packing to infuse starch into the potatoes to produce an extra layer that would allow the interior texture to remain silky as the exterior fried and dried to a crisp. The next logical step, of course, was to marry both methods together into a recipe for starch-infused ultrasonic fries. They’ve been a big hit when we have served them at our dinners and events.
In the end we published all four recipes for French fries (five if you include the pommes pont-neuf). Each differs somewhat from the others in it texture and fluffiness, but all of them are great. The recipe for Starch-Infused Fries here is one of the simpler ones. If you want the others, you’ll have to buy the book!
Although these recipes represent the successes of our many rounds of trial and error, not all our ideas panned out. Our seemingly brilliant idea of infusing fried with ketchup or vinegar, for example… well, let’s just say that they’re not in MC for a reason.
Maxime Bilet, coauthor of Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home