Is one type of French fry ever enough? The answer is a resounding no. On this episode of Plateworthy, chef Nyesha Arrington demonstrates her methods for making 10 different styles. But here, we’re focusing on the most complicated and playful version of the crispy potatoes: the pommes soufflées. “This is a technique that really takes some time and a lot of care,” says Arrington of the time-consuming process. “The reality is sometimes these potatoes don’t puff, but then you got yourself some snacks while you wait.”
Using the thinnest setting on her (very sharp) mandolin, Arrington begins by slicing rounds of Yukon gold potatoes, and matching them up into pairs by those similar in size. She dusts one side of the pair with corn starch, and one side of the other piece with egg white, and sandwiches them together. She slices through the layered slices with a ring mold to shape them into a perfect circle. Next she fries them in oil heated to 325 degrees for five minutes, spooning the oil on top of the floating crisps. She finishes them off by sprinkling them with some fine salt.
“Obviously it takes a lot of time, you’re not trying to make like 100 pommes soufflées,” Arrington says, as she describes how she might serve them as an amuse-bouche for a gathering of friends. “This is like that showstopper. You serve a little caviar on top, and it’s like the perfect tiny little bit to make your mouth happy.”
See the pommes soufflées recipe below, and check out the video to see Arrington make more styles of French fries, including potato wedges, steak cut, Belgian style, cottage fries, crinkle cut, waffle fries, shoestring, curly fries, and a “potato tornado.”
Pommes Soufflées Recipe
2 pounds Yukon gold large potatoes
6 cups canola oil
1 egg white, beaten
½ cup cornstarch
Fine salt for garnish
Step 1: In a deep fryer or Dutch oven, preheat your oil to 325 degrees.
Step 2: Wash the potatoes and pat dry. Working in batches, use a mandoline to slice the potatoes about 1/8 of an inch thick.
Step 3: Working in batches, line up the slices in two even rows on a large cutting board or clean work surface. Using a tea towel, pat both sides of the potatoes dry. On the top row of potato slices, sprinkle cornstarch to coat the top side of each slice, brushing off any excess with a dry pastry brush. On the bottom row, brush the top side of each potato slice with egg white. From the top row, lay each slice of potato cornstarch-side down on each bottom slice to create a double thickness, with the cornstarch and egg white sandwiched between the two layers.
Step 4: Cut each double layer with a 2- or 2 ¼-inch round cookie cutter with sharp edges to create circles. (You can place the leftover scraps in a container of cold water and reserve them for hash or curly fries.)
Step 5: Add 3 circles at a time to the hot oil. For the first minute, baste the potatoes constantly with oil, spooning it over the top so that the starch sets and won’t deflate. Using 2 wooden skewers or a set of chopsticks, flip each round frequently until they begin to puff up. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until light golden or golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider (a type of long-handled wire basket skimmer) to a paper towel-lined plate or a cooling rack with a tray underneath to catch the oil. Season with fine salt.
*Note: The temperature of the oil may change while you work, so adjust the heat accordingly.
Dina Avila is a photographer in Portland, Oregon.
Recipe tested by Ivy Manning and Marisa Robertson-Textor