Hash Brown Chips with Pickled Onion Mayonnaise at Clanbrassil House in Dublin:
The Irish are connoisseurs of the potato. There are so many varieties for sale at the grocery store, it staggers the imagination. And each has a preferred use. I am slowly learning how to cook them all. Here in the rural west of the country, my friends argue about which local farm produces the best. Annie Nolan, who has a farm stand in our hometown, advertises her prized spuds as "balls of flour" for their perfect texture when mashed.
Many Irish restaurants specialize in chips. And by chips, I mean the fried potatoes known as "french fries" in the US, "patats" in Holland, and "frites" in France and Belgium. (American potato chips are known as crisps here.) Irish chips come in all shapes, sizes, and thicknesses. Thick steak fries are very popular with dinner entrees, while skinnier chips are favored with burgers and the child-favorite, "chicken goujons." (Sounds much more sophisticated than chicken nuggets.)
The flavor of chips fried in "beef drippings" is a special treat here. Two of the best local versions of fish & chips in my neighborhood are Julia's Lobster Truck in Kinvara and Vaughan's Anchor Inn in Liscannor, both fry their exceptional fish and chips in beef tallow.
Eating chips first thing in the morning with bacon, eggs and black pudding is a nice way to start the day. Though I must admit, it's taken a while to get used to seeing folks eating chips with a pizza in an Italian cafe, with chicken tikka masala at an Indian eatery, and with Kung Po pork at a Chinese restaurant. No one in Ireland sees anything unusual about this sort of culinary admixture. The little black dress of Irish dining, chips go with anything.
There are lots of variations, mainly in the form of toppings. At SuperMac's, the Irish David to McDonald's Goliath, you can get your chips swimming in garlic mayo or dip them in piping hot curry sauce. Chips with curry sauce is available at any decent chippery. It's the Irish equivalent of Texas' chili cheese fries.
The most interesting spin on fried potatoes that I've eaten here are the "Hash Brown Chips with Pickled Onion Mayonnaise" at Clanbrassil House in Dublin, a restaurant known for its casual approach to cutting edge cuisine.
The pickled onion mayo is a savvy variation on the mayo-based sauces Amsterdam street vendors serve with a paper cone of piping hot patats. But it's the hash brown texture of the big chunky fries that makes them amazing. Are they shredded potatoes molded together, or are they thick fries altered by some advanced cooking technique? I'm not really sure.
But I do know they are brilliantly unique and deliciously addictive.