By Priya Hutner

Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, the perfect batch of French fries is a delicious work of art. What is a burger without a side of fries? Fries, crisps, chips, pomme frites, or poutine — the fried spud is a favorite food throughout the world. In the U.S., National French Fry Day is celebrated on the second Friday of July.

GOLDEN GOODNESS: What’s the secret to the perfect French fry? Is it the type of potato? The cut? The toppings? The fat they’re fried in? We’re pretty sure it’s all of these things working in concert together. RMU in Truckee fries their spuds in duck fat. Photos by Jared Alden/Moonshine Ink

The origin of French fries is shrouded in mystery. Some say the fried potato originated in Belgium, not France, and dates back to the 1600s. During World War I, it was believed that an American soldier coined the term French Fries due to Belgium’s French-speaking culture.


Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing fried potatoes to America after being introduced to them in France. During his presidency, Jefferson requested that fries be served at a White House dinner and that potatoes be fried “in the French manner.”  

LOADED sweet potato waffle fries at Tahoe Tap Haus in Tahoe City.

What are the keys to a good French fry? The type of potato, the cut of the potato, the method of cooking, the kind of fat or oil they are fried with, the seasoning the potato is topped with, and the condiment it is dipped in are all factors in a good fry. A good batch is golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside. There is nothing worse than a wimpy, undercooked French fry. A good fry is firm and not overly greasy.

According to the International Potato Center, there are over 4,000 types of potatoes in the world. Idaho or russet are the gold standard for French-fried potatoes. The cut of fries is a matter of personal preference. Some folks opt for a traditional fry, but shoestring, curly, steak fries, crinkle-cut, and waffle fries are some other popular cuts.

Andrew Shimer, former executive chef at Christy Hill, is set to open his new restaurant venture, Sylva, in Tahoe City, sometime this year.

“The perfect fry is crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside,” says Shimer, whose choice of spud is Kennebec potatoes, because they “are starchier and larger, with a thin skin. I prefer my fries with the skin on. It gives them extra texture.”

EVER-POPULAR truffle fries at Moody’s Bistro Bar & Beats in Truckee.

When preparing his thick-cut fries, he soaks his potatoes first, blanches them with canola oil, and then fries them in a mixture of canola oil and duck fat. Shimer seasons his fries with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper and serves his signature thick-cut French fries in a glass cup lined with paper and harissa ketchup.

Then, there is the question whether to dip or not to dip. One might consider this icing on the cake the perfect pairing to the ideal fry. Ketchup is the number one condiment for French fries, while other favorites are mayo, mustard, malt vinegar, and the ever-popular ranch dressing. These are only some of the many ways French fries are topped, served, and seasoned. Topping a batch of fries is a creative and delicious way to enjoy them. Chili fries, cheesy fries, garlic, and parmesan, or poutine, a Canadian dish in which the fries are topped with beef gravy and cheese curds, are the tip of the toppings.

A post on the Tahoe Truckee People (original) Facebook page yielded numerous responses for favorite fries. Moody’s, RMU, The Pub at Donner Lake, and Burger Me topped the list. I love Moody’s Bistro Bar & Beats in Truckee, which is renowned for its delicious truffle fries. What makes them so good? Just the right amount of truffle oil, parmesan cheese, and fresh baby arugula. 

RMU in Truckee makes house-cut fries tossed in duck fat, parmesan, garlic, parsley, and roasted garlic aioli.

Tahoe Tap Haus in Tahoe City offers on their menu sweet potato waffle fries served with sriracha aioli. They also make loaded sweet fries topped with cotija cheese, lime crema, green sauce, and green onion.   

Cult Burger in Tahoma serves fabulous house-made fries topped with their creamy cult sauce, which is made with mayo, mustard, pickles, and spices. I love their twist on this dish.

Sam Choy’s Ohana Diner in Incline Village offers a taste of Hawaii on their fries. They serve them topped with Hawaiian-style kalua pork, caramelized onions, cheese, jalapenos, and spicy aioli.

One of my favorite French fry dishes can be found at the Korean fusion restaurant, Arario, in Reno. Their kimchee fries are to die for. Prepared with bulgogi, kimchee, cheese sauce, cheddar, jack, teriyaki sauce, and spicy mayo, this dish is not for the faint of heart.

When I prepare a potato dish for clients, I rarely deep fry my potatoes. I tend to create something that is a bit unique or add a twist to my french fry recipes. Try purple potatoes with creamy lemon parmesan dip. For the home cook who wants to serve healthier fare, I suggest air-frying or baking the fries.  

Baked Purple Potato Steak Fries with Creamy Lemon Parmesan Sauce

Courtesy of Priya Hutner, The Seasoned Sage

Serves 4

6 large purple potatoes
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp coarse salt

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Wash and dry potatoes. Quarter potato into half-inch wedges. Toss potatoes in a bowl with oil and salt. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve with creamy lemon parmesan sauce.

Creamy Lemon Parmesan Sauce

1/2 cup mayo
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1-2 cloves fresh garlic
1-1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Mix well and chill.


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