When I’m traveling for work, I take pretty detailed notes on what I eat. So after a meal at Red Hog, a whole-animal butcher and bar/restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, I jotted down some reminders to myself: the intense richness of the smoked burger, the burnished color of the roast chicken, the way the pepperoni on the wood-fired pizza curled into a little cup in that very special way. And then I wrote in enormous letters: “FRIES!”
Here’s the thing: When you’re eating multiple dinners a night, as I was on that jaunt, it takes a lot to get excited about French fries—and even more to justify eating an entire order of them, given the sanctity of stomach space. And yet, excitedly eat an entire order of Red Hog’s fries is exactly what I did.
At the time, I knew only this: These skin-on frites, tossed in a Cajun-esque seasoning, were fried to a beautifully even, golden crisp. They were thoroughly seasoned but not over-salted, the most common French fry scourge. They were impossible to stop eating.
Inside Red Hog in Louisville, Kentucky.
But there had to be more to it. What was making these French fries so delicious? I called Bob Hancock, who co-owns Red Hog with Kit Garrett, and asked him. He described many things that I had suspected: sourcing the highest quality Russets; soaking the cut potatoes in multiple changes of water to rinse off the starch; twice-frying them, first at 250 degrees and then to order at 350 degrees; tossing them in a spice blend of salt, paprika, ground dried thyme, oregano, and basil, cayenne, and black and white pepper; and pairing them with Duke’s mayo mixed with curry-infused oil. The precise execution of all these steps would have been enough to produce exemplary fries, but then Hancock casually dropped one other factor: The Russets are fried that first time around in beef tallow, the rendered fat from whole cows that Red Hog brings in at its adjacent butcher shop.
There are lots of ethical reasons to support a nose-to-tail approach to butchering and eating meat. But also, think of the French fries.