A while ago I posted about eating chili cheese fries from the Hot Dog Shoppe back home. Since I’m not back home any more I decided to try my luck making my own chili cheese fries. I say luck because things don’t always go so well when I try out a new cooking technique. I’d never deep fried anything at home, and the possibility of me burning down the house (again) added a little excitement to the kitchen. And I needed the distraction since Big Ben was getting sacked 147 times by the Eagles on Sunday.
Step one of my quest involved tweaking my chili recipe. I decided on something less chunky than my usual awesome recipe, and to use ground beef because it would allow the chili to flow down into the fries, melding the flavors and, wow, I’m making myself hungry again. ANYWAY since I’ve been making my own Italian tomato sauce for a while now I figured it’s a simple thing to make a more midwestern tomato sauce. Of course I did. Here’s how it went:
1lb. ground sirloin
2 Chipotle chiles
1/2 red bell pepper
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1Tbsp. Chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. Cumin
FIrst thing I did was roast the tomatoes. Don’t ask why, I just did. Until the skins were charred and easy to remove. Then I diced up the onions, bell pepper, and garlic and put them in the pot with a little canola oil to sweat. Once the onions were translucent I added the tomatoes and Chipotle chiles. I let that simmer for about a half hour and then pulverized it with a stick blender. In a separate pot I browned the ground beef and then combined it with the tomato sauce and added the chili powder and cumin and let that simmer a while. Done.
I shredded some orange cheddar and monterey jack cheeses and tossed them together in a bowl. Done.
1 gallon canola oil
This was the fun part. I went out and got a mandoline slicer just for this occasion. Check out those blades.
Very cool. It slices fries like this:
Impressive, huh? Here’s where I originally put the plate to catch the cut fries.
Yeah, that first set of fries ended up on the table instead of the plate.
So I went to my source for all things culinary (That would be Alton Brown) for advice on deep frying. I learned that peanut oil is most used for frying, but we’ve got a peanut allergy in the house so we’ll just play it safe and get something else. Safflower oil (whatever that is) has the same high smoke point as peanut oil, but we can’t get that out here in the country, so I had to use canola oil, whose smoke point is 435°, which was a surprise to me.
The very first thing you read about deep frying in Alton’s book is that it’s scary. Hot fat contacts the water in your potatoes and causes bubbles, and if that overflows your pot and you’ve got a gas range your house burns down. Because of this I kept my fire extinguisher handy and I didn’t take any pictures during the frying process. Two reasons: I didn’t want to be distracted, and I also didn’t want any evidence for my homeowner’s insurance to use against me. Alton says to use a two step frying method. He suggests 2-3 minutes at 300° then take out the fries and let them cool to room temperature, then back in the oil at 350° for another few minutes until they brown. That way they’re flaky on the inside and crispy on the outside. Here’s the problem, though. When I did this the oil went back down all the way to 215° when I put the fries in the first time. And the second time the oil went down to 275° or so. As a result they were in there for 10 minutes or so the second time while the oil got back up to temperature. So I’m thinking if I ever do this again I’ll ignore that first frying step. The potatoes will steam on the inside while the oil is heating back up.
And then, right after I put the second batch of fries in and the bubbles reached all the way to the tippy top of the pot, when my horror was at its zenith, my sister called. Karen told her politely that I’d call her back, I was too busy screaming. She didn’t hear me shrieking in terror, but trust me, I did. But alas, the oil did not boil over and the house did not burn down. I didn’t need my trusty fire extinguisher. And the fries were darn good.