Sunday, July 20, 2008

You Say Potato, the French Say Apple of the Earth...or How I Came to Adore French

As we dive deeper and deeper into the culinary pool, I’m becoming really fond of the French language and its poetic schemes. Up until now, my thoughts on the French language comprised of thinking it was something I could never possibly pronounce, but it sounded neat when other people used it. Recently Jeffrey and I became perplexed upon reading a French restaurant menu, and he noticed apple turnover (Chausson Aux Pommes), and fries (Pommes Frites) used the same word, Pommes, in reference to completely different food products.

What the pommes?

We dove further into the etymology of this since we are relative virgins to the French language. The handy online English-French translator said the word for Apple is indeed “Pommes”. Ok, so what’s with the Pommes for Pommes Frites and Pommes Puree and the like? We entered in Potato into the magic translator and discovered Potato translates to “Pommes de terre”, Pommes obviously being a shorter word also used for potato. The full connection of potato and apple still wasn’t clear. That is until…

My background in a fellow romance language, Spanish, excitedly kicked in. “I know, It means apple of the earth!” I burst out. “Terre means earth, I bet you. Let’s check it out!” As excited as I was, this really was not an ingenious connection to make, so don’t even start to think I am some mastermind of Romance languages. In Spanish, “tierra” means earth…so it really isn’t so ingenious to make this connection. Nevertheless, as all this unfolded Jeffrey stared at me like I was heretofore fibbing about my lacking French capabilities (That’s what happens if you study German instead of Spanish). As our trusty translator soon proved, potato did indeed turn out to mean apple of the earth. How charming is that?

This is when my enamoring with French culminated. My mind swirled with images of the potato and how it did kind of resemble an apple…an ugly underground sort of apple. The insides are crisp and colored much like an apple. Both apple and potato will oxidize and turn nasty brown colors if you open them up and lay them out exposed. The connection was definitely palpable. This exemplifies how French is such a poetic language…and the people really do know how to truly appreciate food. Thank you, France, for these things.

I wouldn’t be going to all this length just to tell you how I adore French culture or think apple of the earth is the cutest term for potato I’ve ever heard. Well, maybe I would. But I’m not. Let’s get into a recipe. Another French thing I love is pommes frites (pom-freet), aka: French Fries. No, you may not refer to them as freedom fries. Jeffrey makes a bangup fried apple-of-the-earth, his recipe for success, inspired by French cooking techniques, is shown below.

Pommes Frites

Russet Potatoes (choose your quantity)
Frying Oil, such as peanut, canola, or safflower
Kosher Salt

Peel and slice a starchy potato, such as russet. One large potato will feed two people. Slice into long sticks, about a quarter of an inch thick. Drop potato pieces into a bowl of water so they don’t turn brown. Soak potatoes in water for at least half an hour. When ready to fry, remove potatoes from water and dry thoroughly.

Heat frying oil to 280° F in large pan or fryer. Blanch potatoes in the oil, removing them with slotted spoon or skimmer once they become limp, approximately 5 minutes. Let potatoes dry and turn up oil heat to 370° F. Cook until frites are golden and crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined surface and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Voila!

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