Chef Jason Vincent of Chicago’s Giant always endeavors to make good on the promise written clearly on his restaurant’s website: to make “simple, delicious (slightly cheffy) food.” Case in point: these waffle fries, which start not with a bag from the freezer, but with a pile of actual spuds.
Had we ever thought about making our own waffle fries from scratch? Honestly, no. Are we glad Chef Vincent made us think about it? That’s a big ol’ yes.
To make these fries, Vincent starts by boiling potatoes and drying them out in the oven for a few minutes. Only at this point does he whip out the kitchen scale (if you don’t have one from your sourdough days, did you really live through the Early Pandemic?) to weigh the quantity needed for this recipe.
Next up, it’s time to put your pastry-making skills to the test. Choux pastry is the base for many French specialties including ice-cream-stuffed profiteroles and cheesy gougères. Light, crisp and richly eggy, it’s a lot simpler to make than you’d think, especially given the price tag on éclairs. First, flour, salt, water and butter are united, not in a mixing bowl, but in a saucepan set over medium heat. This allows the starch in the flour to gel, essentially reinforcing its ability to hold onto moisture once baked or, in this case, fried.
Once the dough comes together, it’s enriched not just with potato but with eggs and Romano cheese. Piped into a waffle shape, the fries finally make it into the freezer, where they can be stored until you’re ready to fry them off, dust them in smoky South American merkén (or your favorite seasoning mix) and serve them to your nearest and dearest. At Giant, Chef Vincent pairs them with blue crab salad and cocktail sauce, but honestly, they’re just as nice dunked into ketchup.
Are these fries a bit more hands-on than most other iterations of the classic bar snack? Absolutely. But they’re also on-brand for this chef, whose CV includes time at three-Michelin-star Arzak in Spain and James Beard Award recognized Fore Street in Portland, ME.
“Between Lula, Fore Street and Arzak, I think I learned to think outside the box, but that the box still exists,” he says, “and you need to cook it right.”
Chef Jason Vincent’s Homemade Waffle Fries
- 3 pounds potatoes (potatoes that have been peeled, boiled and dried out in a low oven for a few minutes before weighing)
- 2 cups water
- 152 grams butter
- 40 grams salt
- 320 grams all-purpose flour
- 8 eggs
- 60 grams Romano cheese
- 1 egg, for egg wash
- Frying oil
- Merkén and salt, to season
Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Peel and boil the potatoes, then pass them through a ricer and then a tamis. Spread out on a baking sheet and dry out in the oven for 10 minutes. Weigh out 1,240 grams of potato; reserve the rest for another use.
Heat the butter, water and salt in a saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat, and using a wooden spoon, quickly stir in the flour. Return the mixture to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan, about three minutes.
Transfer the mixture to an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the potato and mix on low speed until fully incorporated and slightly cooled, about one minute. Increase the speed to medium and add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Add the cheese and mix until combined.
Transfer the potato mixture to a piping bag with a pastry tip. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper coated with neutral pan spray, and pipe the mixture into a waffle fry shape. Continue until all of the mixture is used.
Beat the remaining egg for the egg wash with a tablespoon of water, and brush the waffle fries with the mixture. Freeze overnight.
When ready to cook, heat frying oil to 350ºF. Cook the fries for about a minute, or until golden. Season with merkén and salt. Serve hot with the dip of your choice.
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