Monday, August 22

Chips & Béarnaise

Ruby & White, an artisanal butcher in Bristol started a Twitter campaign today to support local food business. I find it frustrating when the masses riot to stop a branch of Tesco opening and yet where are the masses when our local butchers and bakers are struggling? The laws of market economics are simple; spend you money with small businesses and not at the supermarket chains then both problems will resolve themselves. Hitting supermarket 'bottom lines' is ultimately more effective than smashing their windows (and has the added bonus of avoiding a custodial sentence!).

To go with my Ruby & White steak (I practice what I preach), the classic chips and béarnaise. Chefs get a bad rap for producing calorie rich food. I can't cover up the fact that deep fried chips dipped in butter sauce is not the healthy option, but chips should be a rare treat. Chips are not everyday food despite what others might think and feed to their kids!   I've cooked a lot of chip in my time, here are my thoughts:

1) Chips must be fried - the cooking medium is unimportant, vegetable oil; sunflower oil; beef dripping and duck fat all yield good results. Meat fats taste better but will stink out your house when cooking.
2) A deep fat fryer is essential if you are serious about chips.   You can use a pan on the stove but the results are inconsistent and deep fat frying is dangerous. You can get a cheap one for £30 or buy one second hand for even less.
3) Triple cooked chips are borderline pointless but twice cooked chips are essential.   Your fryer must have two settings: cool (120 to 140c) and hot (180 to 190c).   Cook (blanch) your chips on the cool setting until you can easily crush a chip between your fingers.   Then set the fryer to hot and cook again until golden and crispy.   FYI: triple cooked chips involve a steaming or boiling stage before the first fry in oil - life is too short......
4) Crisp chips start with dry floury potatoes.   Maris Piper are the best and easiest to aquire, other varieties are not as good.
5) Proper chips should be chunky and rustic. Leave the skinny fries to McDonalds and the French. Cut perfect restaurant square chips if you must (called pont neuf in the trade) but potatoes are round and imperfect, have I mentioned that life is too short....?

Maris Piper Potatoes - allow 200g peeled weight per person
Enough Fat or Oil to Fill Your Fryer
Salted butter - 250g
Large Free Range Egg Yolks - 2
Tarragon, leaves picked - 1 small bunch
White Wine Vinegar - 1.5 tsp
Maldon Salt and White Pepper

Peel and cut your spuds into thick chips.   Fill and heat the fryer to its cool temperature setting - 120c to 140c is perfect.   If you are using duck fat or dripping you must melt this on the stove before filling your fryer or the elements will burn the fat before it melts.   Blanch the chips (in batches if necessary) for approx 10 to 15 minutes until you can squash one between thumb and forefinger with little resistance.   Set the fryer to hot.

My method for making béarnaise is not the classic method but is much quicker and the end result is the same.   Melt the butter in a small pan on the stove (i don't clarify mine) - you want to get it quite hot, bubbling and frothing.   In the bowl of a food processor, add the two egg yolks, the vinegar and a pinch of white pepper.   With the food processor motor running, tip the machine 45 degrees towards you so the the egg mix runs into the corner of the bowl.   Doing this means that the blades can catch the small volume of mixture and emulsify the sauce properly (good tip this - works with mayo and aioli as well).    Start dripping in the hot butter a teaspoons worth at a time allowing the fat to blend in before adding the next.   After 10 teaspoons or so you should start to see the sauce begin to 'ribbon' around the bowl.   You can start adding the butter faster now until it is all emulsified and thick - halfway through there will probably be sufficient volume in the bowl to set the blender upright again on the work top.    Stop the machine, check the seasoning and throw in the tarragon and blitz again to chop and mix in the herb.   

Finish your chips by frying again on the hot setting until golden and crispy.   Drain, season with Maldon salt, serve with ridiculously generous amount of béarnaise.   For tips on cooking steak, have a look here as the principles are the same:

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