ultimate game day snack board

How to Put Together the Ultimate Game Day Board first, list of shopping resources/stores and Additional Tips and Tricks after. [click to continue…]

fry board with dips

How-to first, followed by Shopping Resources and Additional Tips. My rambling thoughts and opinions that no one asked me about Fry Boards, this year’s “hot new trends,” social media virality, and whether a TOT is a FRY at the very end.

How to Put Together a French Fry Board

What You Need:

3-5 bags of bags of frozen french fries in different shapes (regular shoestring, curly, crinkle-cut, waffle-cut, wedges, etc)
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup sriracha aioli [recipe]
1/3 chile con queso
1/3 cup honey or other mustard
1/3 cup whipped guacamole [recipe]
1/3 cup yogurt ranch [recipe]

Directions:
Prepare frozen french fries according to package instructions. Allot about 1 cup of french fries per person, and make sure to include a variety of french fry shapes.

You may not need to cook all of the french fries, though it’s pretty likely that you will need to cook the french fries on multiple baking sheets on more than one oven rack.

While the french fries are baking, prepare the dips. Put each dip in a small bowl or ramekin, then place on the serving board, tray, or baking sheet. I like to arrange them in a row down the center of the board in rainbow order, but that’s just me and my weird OCCD (obsessive color coordination disorder). You do you. If your sauce placement is totally random though, I don’t want to know about it.

When the french fries are cooked, remove them from the oven. Using tongs because the french fries are hot, immediately place them on the serving board around the sauces and dips.

Serve immediately.

frozen fries on baking sheet

SHOPPING/INGREDIENT RESOURCES

  • FROZEN FRENCH FRIES. I used Alexia frozen french fries, organic when available, for the boards in this post. I have seen other national and store brands in grocery stores, but have not tried any of them. Alexia’s frozen french fries cook from frozen between 18-24 minutes depending on which kind/shape.
  • FRENCH FRY TYPES. Choose anywhere from 3-5 different types of french fries, including a basic straight shoestring french fry. If you only serve one type, it’s not a board, it’s “just fries.” If you choose too many different types, you 1) may not have enough space on your board and 2) overwhelm your guests with choices. My favorites are the ones on the Fries Board in the photo. I am still undecided about whether a tot is actually a french fry and can be included on the board.
  • KETCHUP. The ketchup on the regular fry board is an organic, unsweetened ketchup with additional various vegetable purees added. I used it on this board because I had it, but I don’t actually eat ketchup, so use ANY ketchup you like for your board. On the sweet potato fry board, it is everyone’s favorite ketchup.
  • SRIRACHA AIOLI. I make the recipe below for an aioli that has no egg, then stir in a very generous amount of sriracha. You can also stir sriracha or any hot sauce to your taste into 1/4 to 1/3 cup of regular mayonnaise.
  • CHILE CON QUESO. I used a jar of Tostitos Chile Con Queso. I don’t even know if that stuff has real cheese but it is delicious and every fancy, homemade, from scratch or otherwise queso I have had tastes like salty uncooked flour. 
  • HONEY MUSTARD. Just buy your favorite in a bottle or jar. Why waste your time.
  • WHIPPED GUACAMOLE. This is a guacamole that has no other “chunky” ingredients especially tomatoes which should NEVER be in ANY guacamole EVER anyway, and is whipped until smooth and airy so that it’s easily dippable for french fries. See the recipe below. You can use any guacamole, but if you know guacamole, you know that most fries will not stand up to thick, chunky guacamole with other heavy ingredients.
  • YOGURT RANCH. Without ranch, there are no fries. This version is made with all yogurt rather than mayonnaise and sour cream for the obvious reason that mayonnaise is absolute trash. Use any and all dips from a bottle or jar you buy in the store, EXCEPT RANCH. Never use bottled ranch. Just never.
fry board with sweet potato fries

ADDITIONAL TIPS

  • BOARD. You can use any board, platter, or tray that is large enough to hold the french fries and dips together, and is suitable for hot foods. For both the regular and sweet potato french fries boards in this post, I used a 15-inch x 20-inch Boos cutting board, which is slightly larger than a 13-inchx18-inch half sheet pan. 
  • SERVING HOT. The best way to keep french fries hot for the longest time is to serve the fries on one of the hot metal baking sheet that you used for cooking them in the oven. The obvious problem here is I don’t know maybe the hot metal baking sheet straight out of the oven that could sear the hand, wrist or forearm of any person who touches it. Position a kitchen towel or hot pads under the baking sheet in a way that people can see them, a signal that it’s hot, and obviously warn your guests that the tray is hot. You can also just make sure you have enough guests who will eat all the french fries while they’re still hot. This is not a “grazing” board that people pick at over the course of a few hours, it’s an “eat it while it’s hot” french fry board.
fry board with french fries

IDEAS for DIPS and SAUCES

These are all the suggestions from instagram and twitter for dips and sauces to go with french fries on a FRY BOARD. I will leave it to you to decide which ones you want to include. If I missed one, let me know in the comments or DM me on instagram:

  • BBQ sauce
  • blue cheese dressing, which is controversial on its own, but for fries? I can’t believe I have to put this so high on this list just because it’s alphabetical
  • chipotle mayo
  • cinnamon sugar butter
  • Dublin dip – I don’t know what this is and when I googled it one of the results was from Urban Dictionary so now I really don’t think I want to even know.
  • feta dip
  • fondue
  • fry sauce – 1:1 combo of ketchup and mayo. no comment.
  • garlic toum
  • ginger apricot jam, I don’t know about this
  • gravy. like on poutine
  • green goddess
  • horsey sauce from Arby’s lol
  • hot honey
  • hot mustard
  • hummus
  • In n Out spread, which according to research, looks like Thousand Island dressing, which is essentially a combination of ketchup and mayo
  • jalapeño sauce from Trader Joe’s
  • malt vinegar
  • marinara
  • mayonnaise WHO DOES THIS
  • milkshake
  • special sauce from McDonald’s or Sir Kensington’s
  • sriracha ketchup
  • sweet and sour
  • tartar sauce, and someone specified Skippers
  • tzatziki

OTHER TYPES of FRIES

If it’s not made of potatoes, it’s not french fries. I firmly believe this statement, with the exception of sweet potatoes, which are not potatoes, but have so invaded the collective culinary consciousness that I have broken down. This all being said, there are circumstances in which you might want to make a Fries Board with “fries” made from other vegetables like cassava and yucca. Go ahead.

I have also seen fries made of asparagus, avocado, green beans, and mushrooms, which are all dipped in some sort of batter or breading for the crunch effect, but to me, these are just tempura, not fries, but I am here to spread the gospel of crunchy vegetables dipped in salty deliciousness so do whatever. Here are some examples of alternative vegetable fries and how to make them:

  • ASPARAGUS fries – Dip spears in ultra light rice flour tempura batter and fry
  • AVOCADO fries – Cut not-quite-ripe avocado into long wedges, coat with breadcrumbs, and “oven fry,” as avocado holds up better on a baking sheet than rollicking around in a pot of frying oil
  • GREEN BEAN fries – Like asparagus, dip in light batter, and deep fry
  • MUSHROOM fries – Slice portobello mushrooms caps into long “fries,” dip in light batter and fry. Portobello mushroom caps also work with the “breadcrumb” coating too.
  • TOFU fries – Slice extra firm tofu into long strips. Press between layers of paper towels to drain out as much water as possible. Lightly coat in corn starch or flour (you probably don’t need an egg wash). Fry.

crispy braised chicken thighs with beans and greens
You can make this dish either starting with dried beans and slow cooking them first in the pot then adding the browned chicken after to finish cooking, or with canned/cooked beans that you add to the end of braising the chicken. Most (week)nights, the canned bean version cooks MUCH faster, but when you have the time and, obviously, the foresight to plan to soak beans the night before, etc, the dried bean version FEELS much better. Once you’ve done both, you’ll understand the difference. [click to continue…]

citrus-roasted-wild-salmonRecipe first, personal notes and shopping resources after.

{ click for CITRUS-ROASTED SALMON with HERBS recipe }

tropical cobb salad ginger lime vinaigrette

In case you didn’t get it from the 823 versions I’ve made on this site, I’ll tell you right now that I have a thing for Cobb Salad. Give me anything, I will Cobb-ify it, which basically means adding avocado, bacon, and blue cheese.

Lobster? Been there.

Salmon? Done that. With both grilled salmon and smoked salmon on the plate.

Bachelor in Paradise? Tropical Cobb Salad with Ginger Lime Vinaigrette, served on a board, obviously, because it’s for two.

[click to continue…]

It looks impressive, but a DIY Sushi Hand Roll Bar is actually one of the less complicated ways to host a party, for both the host and the guests. Most of the ingredients are raw (fish and seafood) and fresh (vegetables), so the most work you have to do as the host is cooking and making the sushi rice. You could even go so far as buying pre-cooked rice (not recommended, but not not recommended either).

Because hand rolls are literally rolled by and in your hands, there is no need for special tools like bamboo rolling mats. It’s all very casual for the guests.

If you have it in you to cook even a little, you can make Ginger Tamari Roasted Tofu and tamago, seasoned egg omelet, yourself, but even those are available ready-made at Japanese markets. Both the sesame baked tofu and the tamago in the photo above are store-bought.

Detailed how-to and recipes below. Shopping notes and resources follow.

DIY SUSHI HAND ROLL BAR [how-to]

serves 4

Ingredients

1 package toasted nori
4 cups sushi rice (cooked, seasoned rice, recipe below)

Fillings
Fish and Seafood (pick 3-5, or everything, whatever)

  • cooked shrimp
  • 6 ounces salmon (raw, sashimi grade), sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • 6 ounces tuna (raw, sashimi grade), sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 cup spicy tuna [recipe below]
  • 4 ounces cooked crab
  • 1 small box uni (sea urchin)
  • various roe and caviar

Vegetarian Fillings

  • 4 ounces tamago (sweet, seasoned omelet recipe coming soon)
  • ginger sesame roasted tofu [recipe link below]
  • roasted beets

Fresh Vegetable Fillings

  • carrots, julienned and blanched
  • mango, sliced
  • avocado, sliced
  • cucumber, julienned
  • radishes
  • radish sprouts
  • seaweed salad

Garnishes

fresh shiso leaves
toasted sesame seeds
lemon, sliced or cut into wedges

Sauces

soy sauce
wasabi
pickled ginger

Directions

Place toasted nori, rice, and fillings in small bowls, on plates, and on serving platters. It is helpful to keep similar ingredients together, e.g. all the raw fish on one larger plate together, vegetarian fillings together. Let each person place about 2 tablespoons of sushi rice on a sheet of toasted nori, add their own fillings, and carefully “roll” into a cone.

Provide individual plates and small sauce bowls for soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger to each person eating.

Some suggested filling combinations:

  • spicy tuna + cucumber
  • salmon + avocado + mango
  • crab + avocado + cucumber (California roll)

sushi hand rolls

sushi hand roll ingredients

How to Make Sushi Rice (seasoned rice)

Cook medium- or short grain brown rice in your trusty little rice cooker.

For every 1 cup of cooked rice, gently stir/mix in:

  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

My favorite rice is organic Kokuho Rose Brown Rice from Koda Farms, a California-based Japanese rice farm, who sells directly to consumers at the Santa Monica Farmers Market on certain Wednesdays and Hollywood Farmers Market on Sundays. I have seen 5-pound bags of the organic brown rice at Japanese grocery stores (Nijiya and Mitsuwa) and even at some Whole Foods Markets in Los Angeles.

Wash the rice in cold water until the water runs clear, then soak the rice in filtered water with a pinch of salt overnight before cooking.

I use an electric rice cooker by Cuckoo to cook Asian rice. It is the most ridiculously expensive single-function kitchen tool I own but I couldn’t successfully cook rice in a regular pot on the stovetop if my life depended on it.

I use organic brown rice vinegar. Currently I have a bottle of both Marukan brand and Eden Foods. Both of them are available at Whole Foods. I have also tried Kikkoman (not organic) and Nakano (organic). I can’t remember what these latter two tasted like, but let’s just assume they were unremarkable since I didn’t buy them again. If you cannot find rice vinegar, substitute apple cider vinegar. The flavor is different and the acidity is slightly stronger, but for handrolls, in which there are a lot of other ingredients, the taste of apple cider vinegar will be fine.

Spicy Tuna [recipe]

Stir together:

  • 4 ounces finely chopped sashimi grade tuna
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tamari
  • 1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped, about two tablespoons of green parts only reserved for garnish
  • optional: you can stir in about 2 tablespoons Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise if you like the creamy style spicy tuna. I think mayo is disgusting; and with fish it’s absolutely revolting. But hey, everyone is different.

Ginger Tamari Roasted Tofu [recipe here]

breakfast nachos with hash browns chips
{ click for Breakfast Nachos with Hash Browns recipe }