The Joy of Soul Food Blog by Pamela Holmes

The Joy of Soul Food Blog by Pamela Holmes

Soul food memories and the recipes that come along with them.

The Art of Fries

Sunday, May 3, 2009

 
My "little" brother Edwin was a Fry Master. Indeed if levels of proficiency with the fried potato were meted out, he would be a 7 th degree black belt. He mastered the proper thickness, the proper heat, the proper oil, the proper cooking vessel and the optimal cooking time. No one makes better fries than the Reverend Edwin M Coleman.

Unlike me, growing up Edwin did not have a broad range of menu items, rather he chose one lane, the fried potato and became its aficionado. We had a gadget called the Veg O Matic. As promised on its TV commercial, "it slices, it dices..." Edwin tried every shape the veg o matic would produce and settled on the 1/4 inch dice as the perfect size and shape for the perfect fry.

As for the vessel, he selected a deep cast iron skillet. he would fill it half full with an oil concoction and heat it to some perfect temperature for which he had a sixth sense. The oil was from a can kept by the stove. We had two grease cans. Recycling is nothing new to us. We had one can for fish grease and one can for everything else. Fish grease could only be used with fish, which we had every Friday night. The other can is what made food at our house special. The grease can started life as Crisco shortening. The thick white shortening is what we used to fry chicken. Once the chicken was done and when the oil was cool, we would pour it back into the can for the next deep fried opportunity. Whenever we fried bacon, the drippings were added to the chicken grease can.

This chicken grease, C risco oil, bacon drippings combination is what purported these fries to legend. Edwin would season the potatoes before frying using salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika. The oil did not burn and the fries did not flounder. They floated, turned golden and he would turn them onto a plate covered with a paper towel to remove the excess oil. On special occasions, he would fry onions with the potatoes.

Once the fries were perfect, he would quickly turn the drained hot potato  onto a waiting plate and eat them while they were still hot. These fries did not need ketchup but on the rare occasion when he was willing to share his fries with me, I used it. The combination of sweet,salt, crunchy smooth, hot and cold was everything my 15 year old appetite demanded. And I marvelled at this young man's craft.

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