Legend has it that the french fry was invented not by the French, but by a group of Belgian peasants in the seventeenth century. During an especially brutal winter, the river that was their main source of sustenance froze, making fishing impossible. In lieu of the real thing, these creative folk took to carving potatoes into fish shapes and frying them. The American term "french fry" is derived not from a mistaken French origin -- the French call them pommes frites -- but from the fact that they are "frenched," or cut lengthwise into strips.
The method of twice-frying potatoes is also attributed to Belgium, where, in the mid-nineteenth century, a man named Coudelier recorded a process he called "double friture," in which the potato strips are first blanched in vegetable oil to cook the insides, then left to cool completely, and fried again at a much higher temperature to crisp the outsides and give them a rich golden color. Belgians are passionate about these frites, which are commonly sold in small shops along city streets and served in paper cones with a sprinkling of salt and a generous dollop of mayonnaise.
At Belgo restaurant, Belgian frites are the perfect accompaniment to a steaming bucket of mussels and a smooth Belgian beer. Executive chef Michael Formichella tutors Martha on the fine points of "double dipping" frites and shows her how to make three delicious toppings, including the Belgian favorite, a tangy homemade mayonnaise.