Cooking With

Morgen Van Buren

Organic spuds, a space-age oven and some bygone-era marketing help this consultant-turned-restaurateur churn out french fries you can feel good about

Potatoes are the near-perfect veggie, lacking sodium, cholesterol and fat, and for their mega doses of potassium and vitamin C (nearly half of our day’s needs in a single medium spud!). Yet for all that healthy good news, potatoes get a bad rap for the treacherous—er, delicious toppings we slather on them: butter, bacon, cheese, sour cream … and that’s not even counting the french-fried variety.

Not so if Morgen Van Buren is making them. Van Buren owns 3 Potato 4 (3P4shop.com), an artisanal french fry stand in a bright corner of the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market, where each Friday his is the place for market visitors and vendors to grab a paper cone of freshly baked fries and handmade sauces and call it “lunch”—a healthy one at that.

“That cone in your hand?” he says, pointing to a small order (they come in a large, too). “That’s about 110 calories and no fat.”

No fat?! No kidding. Fries from 3 Potato 4 are baked in what he calls “our ridiculously expensive machine” with zero oil. What emerges from the futuristic-looking oven are wedges so brown and crisp you’d swear they had to have taken a fat bath. Van Buren attributes the deep potato flavor to four things: a pre-bake blanch in apple juice; a romp in a blend of 3 Potato 4 spices; the oven’s high temperature; and organic potatoes, always.

And then there are the sauces. Roasted pineapple-habenero barbecue, peanut satay and others are gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, and handmade by Van Buren every Friday before the market opens.

Van Buren co-owns 3 Potato 4 with his sister, Guenevere Blanchard, who runs a second location in her town of Salem, Mass. Although Las Vegas’ local outpost is only open during the farmers market hours, 3 Potato 4 has been invited to participate in First Fridays. Van Buren is actively looking for a permanent brick-and-mortar home for this little company with an outer-space feel.

“The shtick is very 1950s, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” says Van Buren, whose 15 years in marketing and creative consulting helped him craft his company’s good-ol’-days vibe. “We provide good food, good sauces and a good time.”

So, do french fries by any other cooking method taste as sweet? Clearly. Here, Van Buren shares suggestions for 3 Potato 4-quality baked, organic fries at home, a quick-and-tasty sauce and how best to wash it all down. “Salad, no fries” might be an order of the past.

Organic French Fries With Chipotle Mayo

Makes 2-3 servings

2 large, organic baking potatoes (preferably russets or red-skins), cut into strips. (For big crunch, soak them in apple juice for at least 30 minutes.)

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt or your favorite flavored salt. (3 Potato 4 uses an alder smoked sea salt, available at the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market.)

1/4 teaspoon fine black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika (Are you adventurous? Try tamarind.)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Rub a baking sheet with olive oil and set aside. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and toss evenly to coat the potatoes; then, drizzle with a little more olive oil and toss once more. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the sheet and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Spoon chipotle mayo (1 cup of mayonaise or Veganaise, 2 ounces of Smoked Chipotle Tabasco and 1 ounce of finely ground black pepper) in a dish for dipping, or dollop directly on top. For an extra treat, Van Buren sprinkles the top with vegetarian Bac-O-Bits, which, he says, “adds crunch and blows your head off!”

Beer Pairings

“Though we tout a gluten-free and organic product, and we do not use oil, I tend to stick with the beers that may contain wheat [but] have more of a bang for the buck,” Van Buren says. He suggests a Belgian ale with any of 3 Potato 4’s fries, especially a light-but-brisk Duvel Belgian strong blonde ale with the roasted garlic pepper sauce. Come winter, the stand will introduce sweeter spuds: Think sweet potato fries with cane sugar and a light dust of habanero powder, or baked fries with green apple and caramel. Van Buren says both would be great with currant or raspberry lambic beers.

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