Kitchen Guy: French Fried Apostasy

By Beacon Staff

I confess that I am overly fond of French fried potatoes. And for years, as a purist, I could not imagine anything other than Heinz (not Del Monte or Hunts or any other brand, thank you) Ketchup as my condiment of choice.

But then I became acquainted with the true origin of French fries – pomme frites, as it were. They are not French at all. They are of Belgian origin and over there, the street vendors tell you to dip their crispy little numbers in mayonnaise. Actually, it’s aioli – a garlic mayonnaise, frequently flavored with other things like saffron or chili oil.

Before we go any further, you should know that this column is not really about French fries. It’s about the stuff you dip your fries into. But here’s a little trivia to add to the mix: my beloved ketchup, for several years now, has been second to salsa as America’s best-selling condiment. This is not entirely due to the influx of immigrants from Latin America. Salsa on its own outsells ketchup by a wide margin. It’s no wonder that the good people at H.J. Heinz Co. now offer spicy ketchup as a measure to keep pace.

Now salsa has a challenger and I don’t know what the Heinz people will do to stay current with this particular contender. Curry sauces are on the rise. Mostly associated with Indian cuisine, various types of curries can be found in many cuisines throughout southern Asia.

Curry, like the lesser known Indian spice mixture garam masala, actually is an agglomeration of herbs and spices. Curries can be hot, mild or sweet and often there is a smoky redolence that comes from cumin, a standard curry ingredient. When you see curry in the spice rack at the supermarket, it’s usually a pale yellow color, since turmeric is a key ingredient. But there is also red curry, generally because of the preponderance of chili powder(s) or paprika.

All of that notwithstanding, I tried a spicy curry sauce as a dip for French fries and I was absolutely floored by how good it tasted and how well it paired with the fried potatoes. Good thing my ketchup bottle is an inanimate object without feelings, because it’d truly be hurt by my impending abandonment.

Curry is so versatile that it can be used with beef, chicken, fish, seafood and vegetables. You can control the heat level by the curry powder you choose to use. Here’s a simple curry sauce you can try:

1 Tbsp. canola oil
¼ cup minced shallots
1 ½ cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp. curry powder
4 oz. Major Grey’s chutney (available in the condiment section near the relishes.)
4 oz. unsweetened coconut milk (available in the Asian food section.)
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and sweat the shallots until they are translucent. Add the broth and curry powder and reduce by 25%. Add the chutney, coconut milk and cilantro and stir well to blend. Transfer to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Now I understand that it could be a giant leap for some of you to go from ketchup to curry sauce. This is especially true of some people I used to cook for in western Montana who couldn’t eat anything without ranch dressing. I am also reminded of former compatriots in upstate New York who drenched their fries with brown gravy. And don’t get me started about those fish and chips devotees who do the malt vinegar thing.

E-mail me for my double fry method for making French fries, and then try my curry sauce. I wager you’ll be a curry convert, too.

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