Triple cooked chips are one British chef’s answer to soggy, under-cooked potato fingers that almost all of us love. I’m not talking about French fries or the dried, flavoured, remnants of thinly-sliced potatoes in plastic bags that line supermarket shelves. I’m talking about proper “Chips”.
George Orwell described them in his book “The Road to Wigan Pier” as, “chips are one of the “cheaply pleasant” foods with which the “underfed, harassed, bored and miserable” may console themselves.” They were thought to be so necessary to British well-being during the Second World War that they were one of the very few foodstuffs exempted from rationing.
They are a great “comfort” food: They are simple and delicious, even in a post-festive season when you are supposed to be abstemious.
Heston Blumenthal, a British Chef, is famed for bewildering dishes such as meat fruit – a chicken liver parfait disguised as a mandarin. In his hands, liquid nitrogen went from something to be used to freeze off warts to a tool for making the smoothest of ice-cream – bacon and egg flavoured, naturally. He serves a seaside scene of edible sand with kelp and seafood, eaten to an accompanying soundtrack of ocean waves and the cawing of seagulls. He is one of the original “molecular gastronomists”, with their foams and gels that taste of the unexpected. His website is an interesting read. A synopsis follows:
The story of Dinner began in the late 90s with Heston Blumenthal’s fascination with historic gastronomy. The savoury ice creams of the late 1800s, the theatre of the Tudor dining experiences and the dishes of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland all resonated with his unique approach to cooking.
After researching 14th century cookbooks….. by the royal chefs of King Richard II; investigating Lewis Carroll’s flights of fancy in Alice in Wonderland; working with food historians; tapping into the worlds of the British Library in London and the teams at Hampton Court Palace – the very modern dining experience of “Dinner by Heston Blumenthal” was born.
“Dinner by Heston Blumenthal” is inspired by the creative and imaginative cooking of Britain’s gastronomic past, and is dedicated to reimagining those recipes and bringing new, exciting and playful experiences to the diners of today.
However, perhaps his greatest contribution to the culinary world may be triple cooked chips.
Mr. Blumenthal became obsessed with chips around 1992, before he began feeding restaurant diners Snail Porridge, and even before he had a restaurant. The traditional double-fry process can too often end with chips that are either undercooked or soggy – a result of steam escaping from the middle, and softening the crust. Blumenthal wanted a “glass-like” crispy crust with a fluffy centre. An elaborate multistage process – involving boiling, freezing and frying – was his characteristically-detailed solution.
Since becoming one of its doyens, Mr. Blumenthal has expressed his frustration with the term “molecular gastronomy”. This, he has pointed out, is “simply the science of cooking”. Like science, preparing food is form of puzzle-solving. Why did your cake rise to a dome in the centre? Why won’t my onions caramelize? High-end chefs like Mr. Brumenthal are driven by the intricacies of transforming ingredients into ever more delicious things to eat.
However, he has also demonstrated that cooking is an art. And, like artworks, dishes must be judged according to their ambitions. A pop song can be as great, in a way, as a symphony, and triple-cooked chips can be as miraculous as a viridescent, spherified, pea – a description from one of his menus.
I will most certainly try his triple cooked chips, if ever I have a chance – there is no way in hell I will put myself through the trials of trying to make them myself.
However, the thought of his other dishes, described above, would make me avoid his restaurants like the plague. I would also assume that his prices are totally outrageous, even for his triple cooked chips, which would also keep me far away.