A European favorite, especially for French fries, cultivation of this variety has only recently started in the United States, mostly by small farmers in the East and it's about time. American cooks have been deprived of this fine potato, which is everyday fare in Europe, for too long. It's of Dutch origin but also widely cultivated in Belgium, the country that insists it invented frites. The Bintjes that are currently available in American farmers' markets are on the small side, while in Europe they can be quite large, making them easy to peel and cut into uniformly neat 1/4-inch-thick sticks for French fries. American Bintjes are delicious to sauté whole in butter, then stew with parsley, or to use for hash browns. The Bintje is a medium-starch potato with pale yellow flesh and a slightly earthy flavor. The peel is not too heavy.
Substitutes: Maris Piper, Long White, Russet
Yield: 6 Servings
Among the simplest, most ubiquitous, and tempting potato preparations are frites, or French fries. Of course, a number of megacorporations in the food-service business have perfected the technique of freezing potato sticks for quick reheating or frying, but these industrialized versions cannot compare with the real thing. A mound of perfect frites depends on several elements. First, you need a starchy potato, so that moisture does not dilute the oil. Commonplace Russets (page 48 of the book) are good, and their size makes them easy to cut properly, but Bintjes and Maris Pipers (page 45) are the choice of Belgian French-fry masters. A wok or deep sauté pan in which about 8 cups of oil, or a depth of about 3 inches, can be heated is crucial. Finally, the technique of partially frying the potatoes, and then frying them again later is what makes all the difference, as it crisply seals the outside and gives a creamy texture within. Eat up: Good French fries wait for no one.
Peel the potatoes and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick sticks with a knife, a French-fry cutter, a mandoline, or a food processor. Place them in a bowl of cold water to cover.
Heat the oil to a depth of 3 inches in a deep sauté pan, a wok, or an electric deep-fryer to about 300 degrees F. Line a large colander with several layers of paper towels.
Drain the potatoes and pat them dry on paper towels.
Plunge one-fourth of the potatoes into the oil and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring them around once or twice, until they turn pale gold but have not begun to brown.
When they are done, use a large skimmer to transfer them to the colander. Repeat with the remaining potatoes. Set the parcooked potatoes aside for at least 20 minutes or up to 3 hours.
Just before serving, reheat the oil to 375 degrees F. Remove the potatoes from the colander and reline the colander with fresh paper towels. When the oil is hot, cook the potatoes, in several batches, for about 2 minutes per batch, until they are golden brown. Transfer them to the colander when they are done.
When all the potatoes have been cooked, gently toss them in the colander, pull out the paper towels, dust them with salt, and gently toss again. Serve at once.
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The Great Potato Book
by Florence Fabricant
Foreword by Charlie Trotter
Ten Speed Press 2001
$15.95 paper; 160 pages
Reprinted by permission.
This page created December 2001
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