Rebekah Peppler’s frites from À Table.

Frites from À Table by Rebekah Peppler.

[Editor’s note: if you’re feeling furious/frustrated/terrified right now in light of the leaked SCOTUS draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade and you’re looking for something helpful to do in the short term, please consider donating to local abortion funds to help those who might find themselves needing a lot more resources in the next few months in order to get the medical care they need and deserve. If you’re not, well, feel free to sound off on me in the comments.]

Lately, for absolutely no reason at all, especially not in relation to current events*, I’ve been thinking a lot about the notions of pleasure, denial, resentment, and revenge. I mean, it must be a mindfuck for people who willingly choose to deny themselves certain earthly pleasures because it’s going to mean they get something better after death to see others do so without seemingly a care in the world. I’m not targeting any single belief system here, because it’s not just one that corners the market on some form of asceticism in the name of salvation, but I don’t think it’s unjust to note that there are  a few subgroups that have somewhat-similar characteristics that seem pretty resentful of everyone who isn’t following the same rules as they are right now and they want some payback in the worst way.

Personally, I’m firmly of the mindset that people who can get pregnant should be afforded the privacy to make the decisions that are best for themselves and their bodies with their doctors because it literally has nothing to do with anyone else, but if a leaked draft opinion holds when a decision is handed down a month and a half from now, that right is going to go away for a lot of people. It’s the canary in the coal mine that is the descent into something very sinister and authoritarian, and it’s honestly terrifying. The fact that our only real firewall against it is by voting in droves absolutely sucks, but to paraphrase John Oliver from his segment on this topic on the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight, it’s a shitty system, but it’s the system that we have to work with right now.

In the name of self-care and finding a little pleasure right now, I’m going to suggest that you make these frites from Rebekah Peppler’s À Table.

Way back when, during our stints living in New Haven and New York, we’d make homemade fries from time to time from the Les Halles Cookbook, but they were A Project. Between the prep, the soaking, the poaching, the crisping, and the thin film of grease that would get on everything if you didn’t have a good exhaust system in your kitchen, we quickly abandoned making fries for simpler things like making parsnip chips. 

Not long before Easter though, my brother-in-law D asked us to bring some aioli with us because he wanted to make some frites as an appetizer, and it was only when we were all together that I realized he had snapped a photo of the recipe from À Table. I have way more to write about this book and its author, who is essentially the Millennial version of Ina Garten, but for now I need to wax rhapsodic about the genius around this recipe.

To make the process of making frites at home more accessible, Peppler does a few things differently: she uses Yukon Golds instead of russets to capitalize on how they are both waxy and starchy, and she cooks the potatoes in one go and specifically starts them in cold oil. You bring the frites to boil, let them go for 20 minutes undisturbed, and then for another 20 minuters you gently stir them so they can get golden brown on the outside before evacuating to a draining rig and seasoning them well with kosher or sea salt. (Will I probably try these with Old Bay? I cannot say for sure, except that now that the thought has come to my mind, I’m going to try to try it at least once.

Paired with a good drink and a batch of a homemade mayo or preferably a garlic-spiked aioli or allioli, it’s absolutely the respite we can use right about now.

*For the record, this is sarcasm.

Frites

Lightly adapted from À Table by Rebekah Peppler 

Serves 4-8 as an appetizer, or really 2-4 if you’re really hungry

  • 3 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • 6-7 cups of neutral oil (I like canola, but vegetable also works)
  • Kosher or sea salt for seasoning.

Before prepping the potatoes, set up your frying rig: fill a large Dutch oven with the oil, and line a baking sheet with paper towels and place an inverted cooling rack on top of the towels. (This helps with wicking away any additional oil after they come out of the fryer.) 

To prep the potatoes, square off the potatoes and then cut them into long slices about ¼-inch thick, and then stack the slices into piles of three or four and cut them into ¼-inch wide straws. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.

When ready to fry, add the potatoes to the oil, and bring the oil to a boil. Adjust the heat accordingly to make sure the oil stays at a steady boil, but otherwise let the potatoes cook without stirring for 15-20 minutes. Get a pair of tongs and start gently stirring the potatoes to allow the potatoes to brown on the outside for another 15-20 minutes, and when they are brown evacuate them to the drying rig and season them immediately with the kosher or sea salt. Serve as hot as possible with your desired dipping sauce or honestly, with nothing at all.

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