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~Jerzey Girls Disco Fries -- Not your Mama's Poutine~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0871e712970dI love NJ -- I've spent more time there than any other state except for my home state of PA.  I'm related to scores of New Jersey born folks, and, I am close personal friends with plenty of Jersey girls.  As a kid I played on the Jersey shore, walked the Jersey boardwalk and knew the words to every Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons song.  I know a Jersey tomato when I see one, love their sweet corn, blueberries and peaches -- their sandy soil is blessed, and, their bagels are the best. Bruce Springsteen is The Boss and Tom Colicchio is Top Chef.  For me, The Sopranos is "bada-bing" TV and American Hustle is my "don't put metal in the science oven" movie.

IMG_3787Disco Fries:  Thick-cut fries topped w/gravy & cheesefeed.

IMG_3823Up until yesterday, I'd never heard of disco fries.  Today I'm writing a blog post about them. Disco fries: Thick-cut fries topped with gravy (beef, chicken or turkey) and melted cheese (American, cheddar or mozzarella).  I found this artery-clogging concept just disgustingly off-the-wall enough to educate myself on them.  As my NJ cousin Vic told me yesterday, "don't knock 'em until you've tried 'em.  I'm going to do just that, but as one who has barely wrapped my head around cheese messing with a perfect French fry in general?  Now gravy? 

Disco-ball-disco-background-decorative-32331327Apparently, disco fries are so popular in New Jersey, they claim them as one of their culinary accomplishments.  For those of you who don't know, New Jersey is known as The Diner Capital, having more diners per square mile than any other state in the USA. Diners, as we all know, are often open all night, and, this is where, back in the 1980's, in the wee hours of the morning, the disco guys took their disco dates to eat disco fries, in an attempt for all concerned to stave off their oncoming disco hangovers. Can you feel the disco love? (<Free image courtesy of dreamstime.)

French Canadian Poutine:  duck-fat-fried fries topped w/cheddar cheese curds & drizzled w/enough special beef gravy to start melting the curds. Sometimes upscale poutine is served w/fois gras  -- light my disco ball! 

IMG_3794In my opinion, disco fries are another example of Americans dumbing down a classic -- and there are only 3 ingredients in this one. I'm not pointing a finger at NJ either -- we do it with food in all 50 states all the time. Poutine: Quebec's French-Canadian dish consists of duck-fat fried potatoes topped with white cheddar cheese curds and a beef stock &/or demi-glace based smooth, peppery gravy. The gravy gets poured on last, to start to melt the curds.  In Montreal, some versions are served with fois gras -- now you're talkin'!  

Poutine lovers will be quick to tell you that our disco fries are not their poutine.  They understand that cheese curds are not easy to find in the USA (meaning:  they can accept a real-cheddar cheese substitute), but, as for versions made with yellow chicken- or turkey gravy -- those bastardizations don't fly.  Poutine lovers take this beloved hangover-curing comfort food seriously. Sans the cheese curds, I am intent on upscaling a recipe for disco fries today.

IMG_3726 IMG_3718For the potatoes:

6  large, 10-ounch-ish Russet potatoes, peeled and hand-cut to 1/2" thick fries, soaked in ice water, in the the refrigerator for 2-3 hours

peanut, corn or canola oil, for deep-frying (or duck fat -- wink)

freshly-ground sea salt, for salting fried potatoes

IMG_3712For the cheese:

12  ounces white cheddar cheese, cut into small 1/4" cubes, at room temp (Cube the cheese in advance but remove from refrigerator when you start to fry the potatoes.)

*If you find cheddar cheese curds, use them.  Cheese curds are the byproduct of milk solids created by an enzyme as the cheese curdles the milk.  The small elastic pieces of "almost cheese" that form are curds.

Hardware Note:  The tools I use to make short work of cutting the potatoes and cubing the cheese are my vintage, cast-aluminum and wire French-fry cutter and butter slicer.

IMG_3732For my easy, spicy beefy gravy:

4  tablespoons salted butter 

1  teaspoon each:  garlic powder and onion powder

2  teaspoons cracked black pepper

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

4  tablespoons all-purpose flour

14 1/2-ounces beef broth*

6 1/2-ouncs demi-glace*

2  ounces Worcestershire sauce*

4-6 tablespoons ketchup, to taste

* Note:  When it comes to these three liquid ingredients, feel free to make substitutions within reason to suit your taste, just make sure they total 22 ounces of liquid.  Once the sauce is cooked and thickened (which takes less than 5 minutes), stirring some ketchup in at the end, brings up the flavor and pulls it all together.  Doesn't every French fry deserve some ketchup?

IMG_3735 IMG_3740 IMG_3743 IMG_3745 IMG_3764~Step 1.  Once potatoes are soaking, and cheese is cubed, to prepare the sauce:  Over low heat, melt butter.  Whisk garlic powder, onion powder, cracked black pepper and salt into the melted butter. Whisk in the flour and keep whisking until the mixture is smooth. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer the roux for 1-1 1/2 minutes, whisking constantly.  All at once, add the beef broth followed by the the demi-glace.  Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, until mixture is nicely thickened, about 3-4 minutes, or up to 5 minutes, depending upon how rapid your simmer is.  Stir in the ketchup, to taste.  Cover the pan and turn the heat off until the potatoes are fried as follows:

IMG_3623~ Step 2.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with 3-4 layers of paper towels.  Using a large slotted spoon, transfer potatoes from bowl to pan. Cover with 3-4 more layers of paper towels and place in refrigerator for 1-2 hours, to dry and thoroughly chill.

IMG_3634~ Step 3.  Preheat oil in deep-fryer to a moderate 325 degrees, according to manufacturer's specifications.  Line a second 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with several layers of paper towels.

Don't have a deep-fryer?  Fill an 8-quart stockpot half-way with oil and insert a frying/"candy" thermometer.

Note:  If you're doing this on the stovetop, you MUST use a thermometer to control the temperature.  Heat your oil slowly, over medium-low, and proceed, as follows, with caution.

IMG_3648 IMG_3639~ Step 4. Depending upon the size of the basket of your deep-fryer, in 4-6 batches, pre-fry the potatoes, for 3 1/2-4 minutes.  The fries will be blonde in color and limp. Transfer to the paper towels and repeat until all potaotes are pre-fried.  I did this in four batches.

IMG_3670~ Step 5.  Allow the pre-fried fries to cool to room temperature, 45-60 minutes, prior to proceeding.  Make a drink or two, pace around the house and listen to some music.

When the potatoes have reached room temperature, increase the heat of the deep-fryer to 375 degrees.  It's time for the final fry.

IMG_3725~ Step 6.  Place a large cooling rack in the first baking pan.  I do not bother to remove/replace the original paper towels.  I just let them in there to catch the excess oil.

~ Step 7.  Deep-fry the potatoes, in the same number of batches as before, until they are golden brown, about 6-7 minutes.  Transfer them to the cooling rack and season immediately with sea salt.

Place hot fries in a bowl, top w/cubed cheddar, drizzle w/hot gravy & eat!

IMG_3805Jerzey Girls Disco Fries -- Not your Mama's Poutine:  Recipe yields 6 servings of French fries, 3 cups cubed cheese and 3 cups.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vintage French-fry cutter and butter cutter (optional); 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight-deep sides & lid; whisk; small ladle; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; paper towels; large cooling rack;  large slotted spoon; deep-fryer

IMG_3779Cook's Note:  In honesty, I like my fries unadulterated.  To learn all that I know about making French fries in general, click into Categories 2, 4, 15, 20 or 21 to get my instructions for ~ Do You Want (Perfect "French") Fries with That? ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015) 


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