My brother was quite a world traveler and is still a dedicated foodie. Hearing that I had booked a week’s tour of the Netherlands and Belgium, he urged me, “When you go to Belgium, try the fries. They are the world’s best.”
Fries: French fries, frites, chips, steak fries, cheese fries, chili fries, boardwalk fries, and even the bizarre “freedom fries”; fried slabs of potato have been an American culinary staple since Europeans first landed. As early as 1802, Thomas Jefferson offered "potatoes served in the French manner" at a White House dinner. But, the history of fries goes back even farther.
One theory holds that Spain “invented” fries because it was the first European country where the potato appeared via the New World colonies. The initial preparation is said to have been as an accompaniment to fish dishes in Galicia, then spreading to the rest of the country and further to the Spanish Netherlands, which became Belgium more than a century later. Professor Paul Ilegems, curator of the Friet-museum in Antwerp, Belgium, believes that Saint Teresa of Ávila fried the first chips.
For a real treat, try my own version of fries—neither French, Spanish, or Belgian—they are clearly from the Land of Pleasant Living.
Kitchen Guy Chesapeake Garlic Fries
8 garlic balls or large cloves
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 6-ounce russet potatoes, skin on and cut into 8 to 10 wedges each
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt
1.5 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Old Bay or JO Seafood Seasoning mix
Preheat oven to 450 F. Using a press, crush the garlic and combine with the oil in a large microwaveable bowl. Warm 1 minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Strain out the garlic, leaving the oil in the bowl. Add the potatoes to the bowl and toss to coat. Cover the bowl and microwave on high 3 to 6, minutes until the potatoes are translucent around the edges. Shake the bowl to redistribute the potatoes halfway through cooking.
Combine and sprinkle the cornstarch, salt, pepper, and seafood seasoning over the hot potatoes and toss well to coat. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake, turning once, until deep golden brown and crisp, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve with sour cream or mayonnaise.
For more recipes and more of Reed Hellman’s signature culinary adventures, visit his Website at www.reedhellmanwordsmith.com. You can follow his monthly columns in Recreation News and read his feature articles in Business Monthly.