French fries are fantastic on their own, but with the help of a recipe from Al’s Place in San Francisco shared by Bon Appetit, we took this favorite to a new level in our kitchen. Get ready for pickled french fries. Fermenting the cut potatoes gave them an unbelievable tangy flavor. Paired with the complex sweet and savory flavors of the smoked applesauce, this side dish just might knock your socks off; and we have the temperature tips to help you get the results you’re after.
Watch Aaron London, chef and owner of Al’s Place, make these fries from start to finish in the video below.
The addition of Napa cabbage leaves in the brine causes it to begin to ferment; and as the slurry ferments the pH begins to drop, pickling the cut potatoes. The pickling and brining gives the potatoes incredible flavor, while a two-step frying process yields french fries that are soft and tender on the inside, and crisp on the outside.
Ingredients and Equipment
- 3-1/2 lbs red potatoes, scrubbed, and cut into 1/4″ sticks
- 8 cups water
- 5 tbsp kosher salt
- 5 gallon bucket, or bowl
- 4 leaves Napa cabbage
- Oil for frying (peanut, grapeseed, or rice bran)—about 6 cups
- Step 1: Pour water into large bowl or bucket, add salt and stir until the salt dissolves.
- Step 2: Add the potatoes and cabbage leaves. Cover the bowl or bucket and let sit in a cool, dry place for *4-6 days.
During fermentation the pH level will decrease—the acidity is where the sharp flavor comes from. The longer you allow the potatoes to ferment, the more pickled they will become. Using a Waterproof pH Meter, we were able to track the changing acid level. Our pH started at 6.4, and was at 5.1 at the end of fermentation (4 days). *The fermenting concoction will not smell very good after about 2 days. Keep that in mind when you choose its storage location.
- Step 3: Drain potatoes and pat dry, discard cabbage leaves.
- Step 4: Attach ChefAlarm® probe to large dutch oven or pot, and heat over medium high heat to 325°F (163°C). Be sure to leave at least 4 inches of room from the top of the pot to the level of the oil. The oil will bubble violently when the potatoes are added, and the oil can easily overflow if there isn’t enough room. Quite a fire hazard.
- Step 5: Fry the potatoes at 325°F (163°C) for 4 minutes. Remove from the hot oil with a spider or slotted spoon, and allow to drain on paper towels. Fry potatoes in small batches at 325°F (163°C), heating the oil back to its proper cooking temperature between batches.
The lower temperature of the oil with the first cook will make the inside of the fries soft without overcooking the outside. Be careful not to add too many potatoes to the oil at once because it will cause the temperature to drop too low.
- Step 6: Heat the oil to 375°F (191°C). Again, working in batches, fry the potatoes for 2-4 minutes to crisp the outside of the potatoes, and achieve a golden brown color. Remove the fries from the oil and drain on paper towels. Toss with a small amount of kosher salt (they’re already somewhat seasoned because of the salt in the brine), and serve with smoked applesauce.
The higher temperature is necessary to have a crisp french fry, but if the potatoes are fried from the beginning with the higher temperature, the inside of the fry would be underdone and too firm when the outside is done, or by the time the inside was soft, the outside would be completely burned.
Ingredients and Equipment
- 5 Jonagold or Macintosh apples, peeled, halved, and cored
- Apple or cherry wood chips
- Spray bottle with water
- Step 1: Preheat smoker to 225°F (107°C). We used hickory wood chips, cherry and apple would work well too.
- Step 2: Place apples cut-side down on grill grate and place a ChefAlarm probe into the thickest part of the flesh in one of the apple halves.
- Step 3: Occasionally spray the apples with water to keep them moist, allowing for better smoke penetration.
- Step 4: Cook to an internal temperature of 140°F (60°C) and keep the apples in a temperature window of 140-160°F (60-71°C) for 10 minutes. Spot check the internal temperature with an instant-read digital thermometer like a Thermapen®.
- Step 5: Remove apples from smoker, slice into 1/2-1″ cubes, place into saucepan, add about a 1/4 cup of water, cover the pan, and allow the apples to “sweat” over low heat for about 5-10 minutes until they’re very soft.
- Step 6: Remove pan from heat and drain excess liquid from apples. Place hot apples in a blender, and blend until very smooth—like baby food.
- Step 7: Return the smoked applesauce to the saucepan and place over low heat to reduce the applesauce slightly. The applesauce should be about the consistency of ketchup. Cool and serve with the pickled french fries.
The flavor of the smoked apples is incredible. You won’t believe the only ingredients are apples and smoke. It’s the perfect accompaniment for the salty, crispy, tangy fries. This twist on a universal favorite is good enough to stand alone, and make any burger green with envy.
For more on french fries, check out our other posts on the topic!