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Beyond Ketchup

Bonnie and Clyde. Beavis and Butthead. Harry and Ron.

French fries and ketchup.

There is a reason that fried potatoes go, for the most part, with ketchup. When that crispy, creamy, ever-so-slightly-earth-toned wedge meets the sweet tangy burst of ketchup—well, I don’t need to tell you. You know. Even when a poor excuse for a fry meets a weak smear of ketchup, together they still, more often than not, rise to the level of edible. It’s comfort food—you know the smell, the flavor, the feel. It’s also a symbol of fast food’s cultural dominance—billions of people know the smell, the flavor, the feel.

It’s also completely off limits for the nightshade sensitive. And therein lies the culinary opportunity.

Fortunately, any vegetable can be fried (but beware store-bought sweet potato fries, which are almost universally colored with paprika oleoresin). On the condiment side you can swap in mayonnaise (beware) or vinegar (beware).

Or you can spend an evening in the kitchen and make your own ketchup.

It’s a curious irony: probably no food is more symbolic of our homogenized taste buds. And yet, most any combination of sugar and acidity can become ketchup. If your grocer has a discount bin of just-too-ripe produce, it’s great place to prospect for ketchup bases. These recipes are among my favorites. It’s simpler than you can imagine, but if you’re questioning your kitchen chops just read the pro tips before you get started.

Quick Qatsup is the easiest, and can be made year round with ingredients found in most grocery stores: apple sauce and tamarind. (You’ll find tamarind among the ethnic wares; it’s used in Mexican and Southeast Asian cooking. If not, most any ethnic grocery will have it.)

Stone Ketchup: The very first ketchup I made combined peaches and nectarine. Slow roasting the stone fruit is optional, but adds an intriguing depth of flavor.

Hard Plum Ketchup: The first time I tasted this version, I felt a deep longing for a really good French fry. This tells me that, on some level, it comes the closest to tomato ketchup.

Malted Fig Ketchup: Inspired by a simple basket of fresh figs and black garlic. Mmmmmm.


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