Dylan Jones: The Great Escape

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The Independent Online

Much as I enjoy the slopes, and much as I like the long, liquid lunches and the après-ski (where else can you dance to "Y.M.C.A." and "I'm Every Woman" without fear of being discovered?), winter holidays are never exactly great culinary experiences. In Europe it's all glühwein, fondue, raclette and stewed fruit strudel, while in America it's little else but wheatgrass, wheatgerm and suspiciously low-alcohol beer (ie amber-coloured water).

The one exception, of course, is a delicacy that goes by the name of Aspen fries, and I am here today to issue a calorific warning: don't look now, but they have just invaded London. Last week I went to dinner at Villandry, the rather wonderful feelgood-restaurant-cum-foodstore-cum-ever-so-slightly-pleased-with-itself-bakery in Great Portland Street, and was served the best Aspen fries I've had this side of Colorado.

In the ski resorts around Aspen, "truffle fries" are as ubiquitous as rhinestone salopettes, Tom Ford sunglasses and Californian tummy tucks (which, if you start eating them, you will almost certainly need at some point in the future). But they're still something of a novelty over here, although if I had my way they would be compulsory in every West End restaurant. Why? Because they are simply too good not to eat. Large, rough, hand-cut strips of potato lovingly soaked in warm white-truffle oil and tossed with huge flakes of fresh parmesan, and then caked in sea salt and cracked black pepper, they are the most moreish thing I've discovered since those spicy Kettle Chips in the big burgundy packets.

Over the next few weeks I shall no doubt be returning to Villandry (if you're having lunch with me in the next few weeks, I'm obviously giving you a valid excuse to cancel), but as no one can go to the same restaurant 14 times in the same week (a friend tried that at the Wolseley when it opened, but in the process forgot how to cook), and as I will probably have absolutely no luck in convincing any other West End restaurateur to start putting them on the menu, I've learnt to make them myself.

And here is the recipe: cut your potatoes into large chunks and soak them in truffle oil for an hour; fry them in your oil of choice and, when cooked, throw them on to a baking tray covered with kitchen towel; then cover with parmesan flakes, sea salt, cracked black pepper and more truffle oil - and, if you can be bothered, chopped thyme, chopped parsley and minced shallots.

Then lock the house, turn off the lights, take the battery out of your mobile and methodically work your way through the lot. I warn you: if you do this on a regular basis you will get very, very fat. But good God, you'll be happy.

Dylan Jones is the editor of GQ

d.jones@independent.co.uk

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