A week or so ago, we stopped at a Jack-in-the-Box for lunch. They were promoting their “New Improved Fries!”. Yup, you guessed it. The same overly crisp surface with a soapy aftertaste that shot down Burger King in the late ’80s. I don’t know what that technology is, but it makes a fry that some folks love in the marketing trials but just does not ‘wear well’ and tastes crappy to some (like me). It isn’t the “comfort food” that folks actually buy when they want french fries, but it does well in marketing trials. An evolutionary dead end that keeps getting tried, but ends badly. (Like rhinoceroids, big things with horns on the nose, that nature keeps evolving, but end in extinction each time…) So the marketing folks do a trial and folks answer “YES, it IS more crispy!”… but no one thought to ask ‘do some of you think this is crap?’… and certainly they got a load of response forms from 12 year old kids and not very many from 50 something couples on road trips… So the fries go to ‘production’ and then when sales of hamburgers drop, they can’t figure out why. Ah, well. Live and not learn…
On a positive note, on the last run to California Missions we stopped at a Carl’s Jr. for an alternative and they had a simple ‘skin on’ fry that was pretty darned good. Not as good as mine ;-) but still a real honest fry.
The spouse is toying with being a vegetarian so found it a bit of a challenge with there Tons ‘O Meat menu, (but got a salad with no chicken on it, I think… anyway, she found something she liked). I got a burger that was quite good.
So we’ve swapped Carl’s Jr. in and Jack-in-the-Box out of the preference map. At least if fries are involved. (I’ll still get the Breakfast Jack if on the road early…).
I wish I understood why it’s so hard for fast food places to understand how to make a decent fry. Slice potatoes. Dunk in 350 to 400 F oil until they float. Drain. Salt. Serve. AND NOTHING ELSE. Works best with an oil with some saturated components in it, but even straight canola or safflower oils work just fine. We served those fries in the family restaurant for years. Folks would come in and order them again and again and again. Comfort food is like that. Simple. No marketing ‘sizzle’. And it sells forever in volume.
So “get a clue, Jack!”, or I won’t come back no more. (Hit the road, Jack, and don’t come back no more no more…)
For those needing more complicated directions to make the perfect fry, see Alton Brown here. I don’t do the par-fry step and I’m fine with the results. In the restaurant I think we used to use 400F or 425 F, but we were doing fast volume and often hit the fryer with a big load (dropping the temperature until the heater could get it back up) so the effective temp was probably a bit below 400 F during the cook.) We were using frozen fries too, so that probably cooled things off a bit ;-)