Tag Archives: Patricia Wells

French Fries at Home

10 Aug

Oh my, I love a good french fry.

When all the elements come together — perfect size (thicker than a pencil), perfect texture (crisp outside, tender inside) and salt — there are few things I enjoy more. Particularly with a wonderful homemade aioli on the side. (Yeah, I left ketchup behind a while ago. But feel free… )

I never make fries at home, however, because it is too much of a pain and too much of a mess. Additionally, as good as a home fry might occasionally be, they never match a fry from a restaurant, given restaurants have the equipment to make amazing fries. 

Well, no longer. 

fries vertical

french fries at home

I’ve written before about an amazing chef, food writer and cookbook author I had the great pleasure to come to know, Patricia Wells. Her cookbook At Home In Provence truly changed my life, an experience you can read about here.

In her latest cookbook, My Master Recipes, she details a method of making fries at home that is very simple and doesn’t involve throwing fries into a pot of hot boiling oil. You actually start the fries in room temperature oil on the stove, so the mess is reduced almost entirely.

The result?

The best possible fries imaginable, and not just at home. They rival any fry I’ve had in my favorite ‘french fry restaurants’ all over the country. 

Steak and fries

mmm steak and fries

 

I’ve tried her technique many times now to make sure they really work. (Just taking one for the team, you know, just the kind of fellow I am.) Except for the first time, when I used too many fries and they fell apart, these fries have come out perfectly every single time. Even that first time they tasted amazing; they just were barely an inch long.

I am linking to a more detailed recipe here, which you may want to use as reference, at least your first time. A quicker reminder recipe, for those who have tried it, is below. But, honestly, even if you just use the below recipe, these really are easy and you are still going to have some killer fries! Just make sure you do the measurements right.

You’ll be stunned how easy it is, how the timing works just right every time… and of course, by how wonderful are these fries!

PATRICIA WELLS’ “COLD FRY” FRITES

(see more photos and notes at the very bottom)

Ingredients

(see below for different amounts)

  • 2 pounds (about 4 large) russet potatoes
  • 2 1/2 quarts vegetable oil, such as sunflower oil, at room temperature
  • Fine sea salt

Instructions

  • Peel the potatoes and rinse. Cut them into your favorite size. (For best results, think McDonald’s size or a little thicker. Don’t worry too much about them being identical… and use all the fries, even the little bits, which are marvelous.

 

  • Soak the fries in a bowl of cold water for five minutes, exchanging the water twice during the five minutes. Shake the fries up in the water each time. The water will initially be cloudy. By the time you are finished, the water should be clear. 

 

  • Drain them and wrap them in single layers in kitchen towels. I like to spread a smooth rectangular towel along the counter horizontally, lay the fries straight up and down so one end faces the edge of the counter, then start at one end of the towel and roll it up tight. I’ve let them sit two hours before I fried.

 

  • Combine the oil and the potatoes in a large dutch oven. Do not cover. The oil should be two inches below the top to avoid splattering. Note: I use my 7 quart pot because I use 3 lbs of potatoes – more fries! –  but for 2 lbs a 5 quart pot will work. Just make sure it is not aluminum. Heavy duty is what you need here.

 

  • Set the heat to high. Stir the potatoes occasionally to prevent sticking, to the bottom and each other. 

 

  • The oil should move to a boil in about 9 minutes. When the oil comes to a boil, set a timer for 17 minutes. Stir very gently every 3 to 4 minutes to prevent sticking. 

 

  • When the timer rings, the fries should be taking on color. You still have 4 or 5 minutes to go. Watch them, stirring gently and when they are a deep golden brown,  try one to get to the crispness you want. They should not be soggy at all… if so, go a minute longer and try again.

 

  • Drain on paper towels and salt to your delight!
Plates of fries

PLATES OF FRIES!

  • FROM HER COOKBOOK:
  • We have made these fries in varied quantities with proportionate quantities of oil and pot size:
    1 pound (500 g) potatoes/1 1/2 quarts (1.5 l) oil/4-quart (4 l) pot
    2 pounds (1 kg) potatoes/2 1/2 quarts (2.5 l) oil/5- to 7-quart (5 to 7 l) pot
    3 pounds (1.5 kg) potatoes/3 quarts (3 l) oil/7-quart (7 l) pot
    4 pounds (2 kg) potatoes/4 quarts (4 l) oil/8- to 9-quart (8 to 9 l) pot
  • After frying, let the oil cool and strain it through cheesecloth into the original containers. Store in the refrigerator and reuse up to five times. Mark the bottles as to number of uses and sniff the oil before reusing; if there is any scent of rancidity, toss. Each time the oil is reused, add about 1 cup (250 ml) fresh, new oil to the mix.

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Best Cookbooks 2017

13 Jan

Better late than never, right?

These lists can be a bit silly because I obviously did not read nor cook from every cookbook released this year. I am a proud cookbook whore, however, and read and cooked from quite a few. These are the cookbooks I particularly loved this year, you can’t go wrong with any of them. 

And remember, if you are building a cookbook library, always a great thing to do, I have a good primer here: Building Your Cookbook Library Vol. 1.

On to the best… If you don’t want all five (!!!), see which food type strikes your fancy and pick that one. Or just buy:

GJELINA

 

Based on the recipes from one of Los Angeles’ most highly acclaimed restaurants, this is my cookbook of the year. From the wonderful recipes, much easier than you might expect, to the technique beautifully taught including marvelous pantry items to have in your cupboard and fridge, this is a book I will use the rest of my life. These are rustic dishes exploding with fresh vegetables and amazing flavors. Fish, chicken, beef, lamb, soup, vegetarian… the book has it all. I also love how easy the book is to use… many cookbooks have spines that make them difficult to prop open on the counter. Gjelina has a wonderful spine I wish every cookbook publisher would mimic. It easily flops open and stays open right where you want it. Read, cook and enjoy.

Continue reading

Simple Fruit Tarts

24 Aug
tart

watercolor by Frances Newcombe

This post should actually be entitled Fruit Tarts for Dummies…  or rather, Fruit Tarts for A Dummy. Because, listen, if I can do this … I, me, someone with absolutely no patience for baking or dough or measuring exactly or any of that silliness… if I can do this, you can do this. And you will be so happy.

Fruit trees are one of the many benefits of living in Southern California. Not just fruit trees, but bountiful fruit trees that need very little upkeep. I am as bad at gardening as I am at baking (that patience issue) yet I have in my yard lemon trees, orange trees, apricot trees, a pomegranate tree, a kumquat tree, avocado trees, a macadamia nut tree and a glorious fig tree that goes crazy in season. Consequently, I’m always looking for ways to use the fruit.

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Prepping Fruit Tarts

I’ve written before about Patricia Wells, a chef whose writing and cooking had an incredible influence on my life. In her book At Home In Provence, there’s a gorgeous Apricot-Honey-Almond Tart you can also make with figs. It looked so incredible, and so easy, I had to give it a try. My first attempt turned out so well I kept making these tarts over the summer, in different variations, to master the tarts and see which fruits worked best. And so I give you below my slightly tweaked take on her recipe.

Did I mention how %@$# incredible they taste? Wow, are they wonderful. This recipe slays everyone by both beauty and taste. Anyone you serve the tart will have no idea how simple it is (and there’s no reason to let them know!) They’ll look at you like you had Patricia fed-ex the tart from her kitchen in France. Because it’s best served room temperature, it’s perfect not only for your home but to bring to a picnic or to a potluck. My goodness, these taste good. And they are light as well! While gorgeous, this tart is the opposite of a heavy, dense dessert. But you get all the pleasure just the same. 

Apricot Tart

apricot tart, right out of the oven

ONE NOTE: Hearty fruits such a stone fruits or figs are best with this recipe. The blueberry and raspberry versions I tried tasted great but those soft fruits started to break down into mush by the time they were finished cooking.

***!!! As an added treat this week, my beloved friend Frances Newcombe did some art for the post, including a downloadable PDF of the recipe – click here to download what you see below.

For the recipe and download, click here: Continue reading

Building Your Cookbook Library Vol. I

3 Oct

People keep asking which cookbooks they should buy. If you take a look at the photo below, you can see I am as good as person to ask as any! So I decided I would do a few posts about how to practically build your cookbook library.

It should be noted that the photo below was taken after I tossed over 50 cookbooks… and the books are stacked on these shelves two deep… and I am not showing the myriad cookbooks in various bookshelves all over the house… nor the two large drawers under the shelf in the photo that are filled to the brim.

shelf

a small part of my cookbook collection, 2 deep

It’s true, I have a cookbook addiction.

Not only are cookbooks worth buying because, well, you know, you can cook great food from them, the best cookbooks open up different parts of the world. Even better, the best cookbooks are not only about food but about exquisite and passionate writing. There are few things I love to read more than a chef writing vividly about their love for food and their approach to food. Reading cookbooks is a big de-stresser for me. I can get lost in them for hours.

For starters, we need to be semi-practical. I will later do another post about more exotic cookbooks. For this post, I want to recommend the books I return to over and over and over again. Each one has terrific recipes that are for the most part practical and simple, recipes you will make again and again. These books are all terrific references for anything you might need. If you have just these cookbooks I list in this post, and no other, you will enjoy years of amazing food.

FAVORITES

PW book

I’ve written before about a cookbook that changed my life, Patricia Wells at Home In Provence. Read the entire post to find out my experience with both this book and this wonderful woman. Know, however, that the book is filled with easy, glorious dishes that will transform your table and, additionally, your approach to cooking. If you can find a copy of the original book, cover shown above, I highly recommend it as it is a beautiful book. I am including a photo of the original copy of my book, which proves how much I return to it.

2pw book

I’ve used this book quite a bit…

Among many favorites in this book, Patricia’s Gratin Dauphinois recipe (potatoes au gratin) is a divine version I make for every holiday meal.

book

I also wrote lovingly about Suzanne Goin and her cornbread, the best ever invented. She, too, is a chef that changed how I thought about cooking and food. Her book Sunday Suppers at Lucques is filled with marvelous food I’ve cited many times before on this blog. Two standouts of many, many killer recipes are her Devil’s Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks (you can simply make the leeks as well, they are great as is and are usually on my holiday table) and her Braised Beef Stew. Check this link for a few more recipes… the 5 recipes in the link are recipes I make all the time. The tart is a go-to I make constantly.

For the rest of my choices, click here ->>> Continue reading

That’s Not Olive Oil In Your Cabinet…

2 Nov

3 years ago I traveled to France with my great friend, the lovely Stacey Batzer, for a week long cooking class with Patricia Wells, about whom I’ve written here. The entire week remains a highlight of my cooking adventures, in part because of all the people we met in our group. One of the couples in the group, Raleigh and Burt Fohrman, have become two of my favorite people on the planet. I deeply love and respect these two. Not only are they pure pleasure to spend time with, they amaze and inspire me with their generous approach to both life and the people around them. They also have many amazing accomplishments. To coin a phrase, “I wanna be like them when I grow up.”

Raleigh and Burt Fohrman

Raleigh and Burt Fohrman

One thing they did on their ‘free time’ was start an olive oil farm, Riebli Point Ranch. And in recent years, their olive oil has won major awards. I am not being my normal hyperbolic self when noting I take sips of this stuff out of the bottle. It’s that good. I bought ten bottles this year to get me through until next Nov, when the oil is harvested and immediately sent out.

Last year, Burt emailed me about one of my posts (he’s a faithful reader, god bless him) and shocked me by explaining much of what is sold in stores as “Olive Oil” simply is not. I asked him to do a guest post because many of us use so much olive oil. This is important for people to know. And if anyone knows olive oil, Burt is the guy. So without further ado, here is his terrific and informative post.

(By the way, they had such a bumper crop this year, for the first time ever they can take new customers and orders. Burt’s email is at the end of the post if you are interested. Or go to the website by clicking here.)

Freshly harvested olives

Freshly harvested olives

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL:

THE BAD,THE GOOD AND THE IMPROBABLE

THE BAD– FAKE OLIVE OIL

Over the years we often wondered why some extra virgin olive oils were exceptional, some quite mediocre and others just awful. That was before we began our education and planted our own orchard.  Many of you probably had similar experiences because you thought you were tasting extra virgin olive oil but were actually consuming fake, adulterated or rancid oil.

To continue reading Burt’s great piece, click below

Continue reading

Preserve Me A Lemon!

21 Jun

I have two bountiful lemon trees in my backyard. I love these trees and what they provide. While I use lemons most every day – in drinks, in marinades, in salad dressings, as a flavor enhancer in all kinds of dishes – I still get overrun with crazy lemons! As weird as it may seem in other parts of the world, when you live in Southern California, it gets hard to pawn off fruit. People show up to work with bags and bags of lemons, oranges, etc and usually everyone just yawns.

plums

Monday at work, from someone’s tree… these were amazing plums.

Given my lemon bounty, I started looking for ways to use the extra. I discovered my favorite a few years ago: Preserved Lemons. Preserving lemons is so easy, and the result so wonderful, there is always a big jar of preserved lemons in my fridge. Besides extending the life of the fruit, preserving lemons make the entire lemon edible. In fact, the rind becomes the best part to use, though everything in the jar, once preserved, is terrific for cooking. Preserved lemons keep nearly forever, so you don’t have to rush to use them, a wonderful perk. But use them you will, I assure you.

I’ve tried many methods for preserving lemons. The easiest I’ve tried, which is also the best, is from Patricia Wells, a wonderful woman about whom I wrote last year. I was able to spend a week with her in France a couple of years ago, a week that remains a highlight for me. During the trip I cooked once on Julia Child’s original stove from her home in France. No, seriously, I did.

I thought we were talking about lemons…

Use this method, it’s perfect. I usually double the recipe, given I am constantly overrun, but this will give you plenty to start. All you need is a pile of lemons (8-10), some course sea salt, and a container with a non-metal lid:

Preserved start

For the recipe and more info, click:

 

“Never, Ever, Ever….” Vol I

7 Apr

According to The Internet, which is never wrong, salad dressing probably kinda/sorta came into being about 2000 years ago when the lovely people of Babylonia began to use oil and vinegar to dress lettuce. I’m glad someone started the trend. See, I’m a rabbit: I not only love salad, I love just lettuce. All kinds of lettuce, every kind. I even love iceberg lettuce, such great texture, what a wonderful crunch. While I love eating all kinds of lettuce naked, I also love a good salad dressing. This leads to the first in a series subtly entitled “Never, ever, ever!”

Never, ever, ever buy salad dressing in a bottle. Ever.  

There’s only one reason to think you should buy salad dressing in a bottle, which is ease. Come on Tom, seriously. I don’t have all kinds of time. It’s so easy. I pick it up at the store, I crack open the bottle, I pour it on some lettuce, instant salad. 

Um, No.

With a little initial prep, almost the same amount of ease gives you a dressing that is much healthier than anything you can get in a bottle. So making it at home makes much more sense. Plus, it tastes infinitely better. Trust me, do this once and you won’t go back. You have to go to the store to buy the bottled dressing. Instead, while at the store, buy a few of products to have on hand for prep and you are ready, anytime, to make your own dressing. Eventually, you won’t even be able to use a bottled dressing as you’ll begin to taste the chemicals and processing. Making your own salad dressing, along with broth, an upcoming post, and tomato sauce, an upcoming post, are the easiest first steps to transforming your cooking, kitchen and eating habits. Plus, I’ll say it again, homemade dressing tastes so much better. You don’t have to love cooking or being in the kitchen to ease your way into your own dressing. And my homemade vinaigrette is, well, incredible. And versatile… it’s great on it’s own but you can also use it as the basis for a number of other dressings. It’s so easy. Here we go:

Click here for the how to!