Chances are you haven't had cheese fries like they make them at Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen in San Francisco.
A distant cousin of poutine or Disco Fries (that late-night Jersey diner staple of cheese fries drenched in gravy), these cheesy frites get a serious upgrade with a sweet, peppery topping of pastrami, caramelized red onions and a velvety Swiss cheese sauce infused with cinnamon.
While we decided to use steak fries as our vehicle for this indulgent dish, you could also use roast potatoes or any good-quality potato chips.
And if you're feeling really risqué this summer, well, you're looking at your new hot dog topping.
Pastrami Cheese Fries
Recipe adapted from Evan Bloom, Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, SF
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
For the Cheese Sauce:
2¼ cups whole milk
5 whole black peppercorns
1 dried bay leaf
1-inch-long cinnamon stick
½ medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup grated Swiss cheese
Salt, to taste
For the Pastrami Topping:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 chiles de árbol (left whole)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
½ pound pastrami, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
1. Make the cheese sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, black peppercorns, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and onion and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain the steeped milk through a fine strainer into a clean medium saucepan.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then whisk in the flour. Continue whisking until the mixture (roux) becomes smooth and thick, with a pale, light golden-brown hue, about 3 minutes.
3. Place the saucepan with the steeped milk over medium heat. Whisking constantly, slowly add the roux in small increments to the steeped milk. Gradually add the grated cheese and whisk until melted, about 2 minutes. After all the cheese is incorporated and the cheese sauce is still loose, add the remaining roux and continue to whisk until the sauce has thickened. Taste and season with salt. (Yields 2 cups.)
4. Make the pastrami topping: Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red onion and cook until softened and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chiles, thyme, bay leaves and garlic. Using a wooden spoon, stir until the flavors have melded and the garlic has softened, about 5 minutes. Add the pastrami and stir well to combine. Cook until the meat has browned, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the chiles, thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
5. To serve, drizzle the cheese sauce on a plate of fries and top with the cooked pastrami. Garnish with scallions and serve.