14.211 Gamja Project (14) Frietjes with Belgian-Style Dipping Sauce

Cycle 14 – Item 211

4 (Fri) August 2023

Frietjes with Belgian-Style Dipping Sauce


by me

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

with W and IZ

The Gamja Project (14)

In this series, I cook potato dishes using freshly harvested gamja gifted to us from a neighboring farmer at the cabin (for more background and related posts, see THE GAMJA PROJECT).

For this final installment, I made fries from scratch, the first time in my life (as far as I can recall).  I adapted parts of the recipe “Classic French Fries” from Cook’s Illustrated: The Science of Good Cooking.

The biggest spuds of the bunch, each about 300 grams, reserved from the start of the project for this very application, because I wanted the longest fries possible.

The main technique that I learned from the recipe was tossing the raw potatoes pieces in cornstarch and letting them sit to form a gluey coating, which is supposed to make the fries extra crispy.

The recipe calls for peeling the potatoes, but I was loathe to waste perfectly delicious skins, so I compromised by using only the pieces that had bits of skin on the ends (left), and set aside the pieces that were mostly skin (right) (for a future use – probably fries again).

Although I’m well-versed in the flavor of foods fried in rancid oil (see for example 11.037 Chickenjoy) – based on my time in the Philippines, where they love frying things but don’t replace oil as often as they should – I was unaware on the other end of the spectrum that brand new oil is less-than-optimal.

About 800 g.

According to the book, frying oil works has 5 stages: break-in (too fresh to fry well), fresh, optimal, degrading (on the way to spoiling), and runaway (dark, smelly, and prone to smoking).  Oil that is too fresh can’t penetrate the barrier of moisture that surrounds food as it fries.  Through repeated use, the level of free fatty acid that helps penetrate the moisture increases from about 0.03-0.05% in fresh oil to 8-10% in runaway oil.

When I’d purchased the oil from Costco back in February – 2 bottles x 2.83 liters each – I was wondering how I’d ever use it all up: here, an entire 2.83-l bottle in a single go (the olive oil, seen as a big lump in the middle of the wok, had solidified in the fridge).

From the outset, I was at a disadvantage on the oil front.  First, all I had on hand was canola oil, which the book had tested for making fries and found to produce “bland, almost watery fries.”  (The book recommends peanut oil, which isn’t sold in Korea.)  Next, the oil was at the “too fresh to fry well” break-in stage, straight out of the bottle.  I happened to have a couple cups of leftover extra virgin olive from the patatas bravas (see 14.190 Patatas Bravas) – though of course olive oil is generally advised against for deep-frying because of its relatively low smoke point – but the book does suggest that mixing used oil with new oil can help.  And finally, the book calls for the addition of a 1/4 cup of bacon fat to amp up flavor, and I just happened to have 2 frozen slices of bacon, which I rendered to produce about 1 tablespoon, but I doubt that it made much difference.

1st batch on top, 2nd batch below.

According to the recipe, I deep-fried the potatoes in 2 batches at 325F (160C) for 4-5 minutes, then rested them for 10 minutes, which turned out fine.  Cranking up the heat to 350F (175C) , I deep-fried them again – but some of the potatoes starting browning almost instantaneously, so I had to scoop them out before they burned.  I turned down the heat back to 325F (160C) and added the second batch, which cooked evenly for the first minute but then some of the pieces started browning while others didn’t.  I attribute the difference to uneven coating of corn starch.

According to the book: “In Belgium, mayonnaise-based dipping sauces for fries are standard.  Hot sauce gives [it] a bit of kick.”
In any case, the fries turned out okay.  Not as crispy as hoped, but this could be improved with better oil and better oil temperature management, as well as better corn starch distribution.  The starchy Korean gamja produced a satisfyingly creamy texture.  The potato flavor was good, enhanced by the bits of skin, seasoned with sea salt (didn’t really need dipping sauce).  But overall, I don’t feel that the outcome (even with improvements) would be worth future efforts, especially all that oil.  Anyway, I’m happy to cross fries off the home cook bucket list.

I dedicate the dish to my Belgian friend EE (see 13.172 Gamja Twigim (Frietjes))

Wondering if Stella Artois is like Budweiser (everybody local drinks it, but not globally), or Foster’s (nobody local drinks it, despite global popularity).

The project is now done with the initial batch of potatoes.  Still have a handful of leftover skins, which I’ll make (tomorrow?) as a bonus dish.


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