Thank the Incas of Peru and 17th Century Belgian peasants next time you order fries with your barbecue.
By ARDIE A. DAVIS
In Peru, the motherland of potatoes, Incas cultivated hundreds of varieties as far back as 200 B.C., long before barbecue connected with potatoes.
When17th Century peasants living in today’s Belgium couldn’t chop through frozen river ice to get fresh fish for frying, they fried fish-shaped potato slices. The idea caught on, eventually giving birth to fries.
Why French Fries instead of Belgian Fries? American GIs discovered fries in France during World War I. The GIs came home with a taste for “pommes frites .” They called them French Fries. The label stuck.
Fries abound in Kansas City barbecue joints. Most are frozen, pre-cut, deep fried and salted. Shapes vary from crinkle cut, shoestring, spirals or wedges — skin off or on.
Arthur Bryant’s fries top my list of favorites. Bryant’s is one of the exceptions to the pre-cut frozen majority.
Fresh, unpeeled russets are pressed through a French Fry cutter set at 7/16 of an inch thickness, then blanched in pure pork lard for three minutes at 350 degrees.
Blanched fries stay in a cooler until they are cooked to order in pure pork lard heated to 375 degrees. The result is a sweet, crispy outside and soft inside mound of fries fit for royalty.
Bryant’s fries pair well with all barbecue meats. Dip them or douse them with Original, Sweet Heat or Rich & Spicy for extra pleasure.
Oklahoma Joe’s, Danny Edward’s Boulevard BBQ and Johnny’s fries are also favorites. All are seasoned with signature rubs.
At Johnny’s, unless they mistake you for me, remember to ask for rub on your fries. There’s a small extra charge.
Besides great fries, Jack Stack serves a fantastic potato that is a meal in itself. Jack’s twice baked potato is loaded with pulled pork or beef burnt ends, barbecue sauce, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. It’s delicious!
North Carolinians like boiled potatoes with barbecue. Boiled until tender in pepper, salt, and vinegar water, and presented with salt, pepper, Texas Pete, and a spicy vinegar/tomato sauce, boiled potatoes are a perfect side with barbecue pulled pork.
A popular side dish in many Southern barbecue joints is Brunswick Stew. Brunswick Stew and its Kentucky cousin, burgoo, is loaded with potatoes.
South Carolina’s barbecue hash, made with barbecue pork, potatoes onions and seasonings, is served on rice.
French Fries, shoestrings, curly fries, sweet potato fries, chips, spicy cheese fries, battered, boiled, baked, grilled, hashed, mashed or salad, potatoes star in barbecue joints across America.
All complement your barbecue. Bring it on!
Ardie Davis is an iconic figure in the barbecue community. He founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS’s Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on numerous food shows and writes for a variety of barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of a number of barbecue books, his most recent release “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”