Things for yourself

In classic Chloe fashion, I’ve left a passion project to sit for nearly a full month and barely noticed the time go by. It’s been a busy month, but it’s about to get busier, what with Thanksgiving coming up; around this time of year I start really wanting to cocoon, but that’s not a full-time option. Unfortunate. But if I can’t do that, I can spend my days off doing things I like — baking, spending hours with my girlfriend watching TV or hanging pictures on my walls for the first time in the 3 years I’ve lived in this apartment, petting my cats, reading, listening to Ariana Grande…all the usual things that make weekends nice.

But weeknights are important too. I sometimes feel like I’m tripping toward the weekend, stumbling through the days of work before I get to the full days off. On busy days at work that feeling is intensified. With the weather changes and general stress, I keep getting little (and big) headaches. At work I eat the same things over and over, which I can’t really complain about (free!) but am going to anyway. There is a lot to be said for making your own food. Maybe I enjoy it so much because I don’t do it a lot.

One of my favorite things to eat is fries, and one of my favorite things to make is…also fries. I spent part of my childhood in Belgium, where frites are a national icon (they are NOT French, y’all!), and while I am discerning, I will also eat any goddamn fried potato you put in front of me. Or oven baked. When I make my own fries, it’s in the oven, and I make them with duck fat in addition to olive oil.

The thing about duck fat is that it’s a fancy ingredient that’s semi-accessible (you can buy it at gourmet/upscale grocery stores) and makes you feel very cool. It definitely adds quality to whatever you’re using it for, but I do feel that half of that is just…feeling cool. I’m cooking with an unusual ingredient that cost more than a Key Food bottle of olive oil or bar of butter! I’m a fancy bitch! It’s not the only fancy ingredient out there, and it’s not something I would generally recommend off the bat as something that will make you feel cool and fancy. It’s not something that can’t be replaced.

It’s nice, though.

Tonight, I came home with the intention of making duck fat oven fries and grilled cheese (with the bread I baked yesterday), but I couldn’t tell if my mozzarella was going bad and I didn’t want to actively risk getting sick (right! before! Thanksgiving!) so I took my cool things (duck fat and homemade buttermilk white bread) and added Kraft white American cheese to them. And then pressed some shredded Parmesan I keep in my freezer onto the bread. The American cheese gets cloying without a meat or something to balance it, but the Parmesan helped, and anyway, the fries were (and always are, wherever you go) the real star of the show. I liked it a lot, so I thought, maybe time to update this blog. (Also a friend told me I have lesbian Ina Garten vibes and that kicked my vanity into high gear.)

The oven fries recipe is Smitten Kitchen’s with duck fat; the grilled cheese was inspired by her frico grilled cheese.

 Honestly I hate the editing on this but I lost all my presets when I got a new computer and I am struggling ok! I promise it tastes good!

Honestly I hate the editing on this but I lost all my presets when I got a new computer and I am struggling ok! I promise it tastes good!

What you knead:

  • Approx. 1.5 tablespoons duck fat (1 tbsp for the fries, .5 for the sandwich)

  • Oil (olive, grapeseed, canola, all fine)

  • 2 slices of sandwich bread

  • Whatever cheese you want

  • 1 tbsp shredded Parmesan

  • 1 russet potato

  • Kosher salt

What to dough:

Preheat your oven to 450°. Peel potato (or not, but scrub it if you leave the skin on) and cut into batons — 1/2 inch is best, but go with your gut. Place fries into a pot, cover with water (at least an inch above the fries), and boil over high heat for 10 minutes.

During this time, spoon duck fat onto a sheet pan. When there’s only 3 or so minutes left to go on your timer, put the pan into the oven.

Drain the fries, then toss them onto the pan and in the duck fat. Drizzle with oil and kosher salt, however much you want, then put in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove and flip them and salt them again, and put them back into the oven for 5 minutes. After that, take them out, salt again, and eat as soon as you can.

Before taking the fries out at the 20 minute mark, prepare your sandwich: cheese between two slices of bread, you know the drill. Add duck fat to a skillet over medium heat, and scrape what’s left on your knife or spoon over the outer sides of the bread. Put the sandwich in the skillet just before you take the fries out, and press some of the Parmesan into the top.

Flip the sandwich whenever it’s just getting golden on the bottom, and press the rest of the Parmesan into the top. When the bottom gets golden, flip again so the rest of the Parmesan can melt. When that’s golden and melted into the bread, take it out, cut it in half, and, obviously, enjoy.

Also:

Fresh mozzarella is my favorite cheese to grill, but it doesn’t melt quickly. I’d recommend putting it on each slice of bread and putting them in the oven, open-faced, with the fries for the last 5 minutes, then closing the sandwich and sticking in the skillet for the shredded cheese part. (Or skip the shredded cheese. Grilled cheeses with fresh mozzarella are glorious enough on their own.)

Also also:

I guess grilled cheese and tomato soup are the classic pairing, but like, these are fries. Add some ketchup to dip the sandwich and fries in and you’ll be more than happy.