Tea Salts have been on my to-do posting list for the longest time. To show off the versatility of this special ingredient, I had to find a platform that was flavorful yet plain. Sure enough, I ended up settling on the humble potato, this time fried Parisian-style. A few zips with a spice grinder and voilà!, French fries transform from familiar to phenomenal!
To make Tea Salt, always choose a natural, unrefined, small grain sea salt. Sea salt has flavorful trace minerals that table salt doesn’t, and together with finely ground tea you’ll taste the best of land and sea. Pont Neuf Potatoes are basically stubby, squat French fries. Also called Pommes Pont Neuf, or Parisian Fried Potatoes, it’s said that these used to be sold on the oldest bridge in Paris–Pont Neuf (New Bridge)–over the River Seine.
If you’re curious about getting perfectly rectangular batons, the most I’ve gotten out of one potato was 8-3/4″ x 1 1/2″ pieces. At the time, this felt like a huge accomplishment. It’s like a geometry game that you soon realize might not be worth all the effort since fried potatoes–in all forms–taste equally good. That being said, because the ratio of potato to fried surface area is greater with Pont Neuf Potatoes, you’ll be able to appreciate the Tea Salts that much more.
You can use many varieties of tea to flavor a salt. Ideally, the tea should be composed of tea leaves only, not be too tightly balled up, and have a strong essence or aroma. Here, I’ve used Kamairicha (a Japanese pan-fired tea), Jasmine (a flowery Chinese green tea), and Lapsang Souchong (a Chinese tea smoke-dried over pine wood).
My favorite salts of this batch were the Kamairicha and Lapsang. One tastes like roasted seaweed, and the other is smokey and rich. In addition to French fries, edamame, popcorn, and even grilled meats make a great base for tasting different Tea Salts. Keep these salts in small airtight containers to preserve their freshness–a dash here and there will add a light layer of flavor to any dish.
Pont Neuf Potatoes with Tea Salt
1 potato = 1 serving.
baking potato (like Russet), skinned and cut into 3/4″ x 1 1/2″ batons, then blotted with a paper towel
olive oil, for frying
1 tsp fragrant loose leaf tea (tea leaves only, not too tightly rolled up)
2 tsp fine sea salt
1. Make the Tea Salt. Blend the tea leaves of choice in a spice grinder until the leaves become a fine powder. The tea leaf bits should be similar in size to the sea salt grains. For me, this took 4-1 second zips in the grinder. In a small bowl, mix the ground leaves with the salt.
2. Fry the Potatoes. Fill a pot with oil so that the oil goes up the side of the pan by 3/4″. Heat the oil on med-low until it reaches 350 degrees F. Gently place the potato batons in the hot oil using the tongs. Keeping the oil at 350 degrees, let these cook for about 5-6 minutes, flipping occasionally. Remove the potatoes from their first fry when then have reached a light brown coloring (not yet golden). Place them on a plate with paper towels to drain. Increase the oil temperature to 400. Now fry the potatoes for a second time in the oil, just until they become golden brown. Remove the potatoes with the tongs and place them on the paper towel lined plate again to drain.
3. Season & Serve! Scatter the Pont Neuf Potatoes with the Tea Salt generously. Serve immediately, without ketchup if you want to fully appreciate the Tea Salts.