Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:48 AM

Hope has such great taste. When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday dinner, she promptly responded, "Steak and homemade french fries." As you wish!

I'm going to tell you how to make french fries, but I'm warning you: once you've eaten them, fries from a restaurant (unless it's a really good French or Belgian bistro) will never again be worth your time.

I'll assume you have seven hungry people to feed, and that your family motto, like ours, is "Perkinses eat a lot." (Jenna, would you please translate that into Latin for me so that it sounds a bit more dignified?)

Get a five-pound bag of russet potatoes and a couple of quarts of peanut oil. There's really no good substitute for peanut oil when it comes to deep frying (except for tallow, and I'm guessing you don't have ready access to that). Peanut oil keeps well and has a high smoking point. We also use peanut oil for our traditional Sunday supper: buttered popcorn and chocolate milk (more on that another time).

Special equipment that makes this experience much more fun:

French Fry Cutter--Ours is Swiss, which means that it works well and is easy to use and clean. This one from the fabulous Amish company Lehman's looks just like ours, and it is listed as being imported, so it may well be from the same company.

Poele (There should be a circonflexe accent over the first 'e' in that word, but I don't know how to do European characters on Blogger.) and Basket--These are hard to find these days, even in Europe. Before I inherited this marvelous one (photos above) from my mother-in-law, we made do with a large wok (a little too shallow, but workable) and a fry basket I bought at a restaurant supply store.

Also needed:
Potato peeler
Large bowl half full of cold water
Several clean dish towels
Platter or shallow bowl lined with premium paper towels (Trust me: this is no time for the economy brand. The microwave kind works well.)

Peel the potatoes and drop them into the bowl of cold water. This keeps them from oxidizing and also helps de-starchify them a bit. Put a dish towel under the edge of the French fry cutter. Take the potatoes out of the water, one by one, dry them off, and run them through the cutter. When you've done about four potatoes, gather up the dish towel, set it aside, and put a new one under the cutter. These will be your fry batches. Five pounds of potatoes will be about three fry batches.
Important: Rub the cut fries with the edges of the dish towel they are in until they are as dry as possible.

Heat the oil over the highest-output burner you have on your stove. Check the temperature from time to time by sticking a raw French fry into the oil. You want tiny bubbles to appear when you do this; then you'll know the oil is ready. Load the first batch of fries into the basket and submerge it in the oil. Cook the fries until they are cooked through, but not yet colored (fish one out with a fork after a couple of minutes, let it cool a bit, and bite it to test). Lift the basket out of the oil, let the fries drain, then dump them onto the paper towel-lined platter. Place some more paper towels on top of these, ready for the next batch.

Repeat this process with the remaining batches; make sure you turn off the heat when you are done! The fries are now pre-cooked and can sit for quite a while as you prepare the rest of your meal. At this point, I made the salad and put the steaks on the grill. Once the steaks were cooked and resting, I continued with the fries as follows:

Reheat the oil. Fry each batch of potatoes again, this time letting them stay in their bath until they are golden and crispy-looking. Turn the heat off again. Put the fries back on the platter (no paper towels this time) and dust them with sea salt. Serve hot! And they will go fast.

About the steak: we buy grass-fed, organic beef by the side once a year and keep it in our large deep freezer. If you can do this, I highly recommend it. It's good to hook up with a farmer you can trust and to be able to look your beef (contentedly grazing in green pastures as beeves are meant to do) in the eye once in a while.

About the steak sauce: Last summer, Patrick had a hankering for Beurre Cafe de Paris, a condiment his Lausanne relatives prize. I found a recipe online and made a batch; it passed muster with Patrick's discerning Swiss mother, and it certainly is delicious. This recipe makes a huge amount. Either give some away or freeze whatever you won't immediately use. It helps to have a metric scale. And an herb garden. Or just come to my house, and I'll give you some.

Beurre Cafe (again with the accent problem) de Paris
1 kg unsalted butter
60 g ketchup
25 g Dijon mustard
25 g capers
125 g shallots
50 g fresh parsley
50 g fresh chives
5 g dried dill
5 g fresh thyme, leaves only
10 leaves fresh tarragon
pinch ground rosemary
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
2 T anchovy paste
1 T brandy
1 T madeira
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. curry powder
pinch cayenne pepper
ground white pepper
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
12 g sea salt

Mix all ingredients except for the butter in a glass bowl and leave to marinate for 24 hours in a warm part of the kitchen. Puree in the food processor; add the butter and process until well mixed. Chill for just a bit in the refrigerator, then form the butter into logs and freeze them. Cut off slices as you need them: cook your steak, then place a slice (or four) of the butter on the hot steak while it rests.
Hope was very happy with her dinner. And with her present: a weekend with Mom in NYC at the end of March! Sketching at museums, walks in the park, pedicures, eating (of course)--you'll hear all about it later in the month.
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