Green Jell-O may be listed as Utah's official snack food but, if you think it's the only Utah food culture export, you’ve really missed the mark. Another Utah food culture claim to fame is the ever popular "fry sauce," a regional condiment served with, you guessed it, French fries.
The Arctic Circle fast food chain claims to have invented it back in 1948. They keep their secret recipe locked away in a safe.
Some people claim that fry sauce is really just Thousand Island dressing, renamed. Hey, it's got catsup and mayo in it, right? Nothing could be further from the truth, though. Thousand Island dressing has pickles and stuff in it. It’s chunky and weird. Fry sauce is smooth and yummy. Most of the time, anyway.
At one point Utah was the "fry sauce" state. You just couldn’t get it anywhere else. If you asked for fry sauce at most cafés and fast food joints outside Utah, the server would look quizzically at you and say, "Isn't that what catsup's for?" That's not the case, anymore. Years ago Arctic Circle expanded its fast food chain outside of Utah and now claims that they go through more of the stuff in Washington and Oregon than they do in Utah.
Arctic Circle isn't the only company to get in on the fry sauce craze, though. Carl's Jr., Hires Big H, Apollo Burger and The Training Table all offer their own variation on the popular pink stuff. Up until 1999 Utah’s McDonald's franchises offered it. They quit carrying it though, citing high spoilage rates because of the mayonnaise. If they couldn't keep it from spoiling, they must not have used much. It must have been pretty crappy fry sauce
Fry sauce has hit the grocery stores, too. One Utah entrepreneur decided to make his own version and sell it. Sure enough, "Some Dude's Fry Sauce" can be found on most grocery store shelves in Utah. I’m not kidding. That’s what he calls himself – "Some Dude." He even markets a few variations. You can get "zesty" or a "bbq" versions, if you want them. Not wanting to be left out of the profit loop, Arctic Circle and Hires Big H have started bottling their own concoctions and selling them on store shelves, as well.
The Basic Recipe
This is so simple it hurts: 1 part catsup to 2 parts mayonnaise. Some say it's half and half, but it's not quite the same that way.
As a foodie, I'm just not satisfied with the basics, though. I've gotta play with it a bit. I wanted to find the best fry sauce I could, while still maintaining the spirit of the original. To that end, I enlisted the help of my three daughters as victims ... erm ... taste testers! We grabbed a bunch of ingredients from the grocery store (if we didn't already have it in the refrigerator), and started experimenting.
We didn't use everything we could think of, and avoided most of the variations I'd heard of before. We didn't try barbeque sauce, for example. Mostly that's because we didn't have any in the fridge and I forgot to pick it up at the store. We also creating a data sheet. This was going to be a scientific study, so we needed to track the data for each round of experiments.
Next, we cooked up some French fries. I'm basically lazy so we just got some frozen ones at the store and cooked 'em up in the oven. Yes, I know. All of you French fry purists out there are whining, ”You should have deep fried them!” I don't care. This was about finding the best sauce, not the best fries. I wasn’t going to peel, cut up, and deep fry a bunch of potatoes just for this bit of nonsense.
We started experimenting with the basic recipe, in a couple of different ratios. We also swapped the catsup out for chili sauce in a few of them. (Yum!) I mixed them all up on old yoghurt cups (don't worry, they got washed first) and labeled the cups with letters - A through D. We ran out of clean cups and had to start using mugs. Some of our samples were labeled "Blue rimmed mug," "Snoopy mug,” “red cup” and “pink cup” and the winning "square bowl."
Once we settled on the best ratios, we started playing around with other ingredients. We added garlic powered (which everyone loved), Worcestershire sauce (which everyone hated), in various combinations and tried them out. I think we went through nearly the entire bag of frozen French fries testing each combination.
Our winning experiment, created after hours (okay, it was really about 45 minutes) of endless (four) trials, is as follows:
Super Newman (not Paul's) Fry Sauce recipe
1/4 cup Ranch dressing
1/4 cup chili sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Dash of liquid smoke
Mix completely and serve with hot French fries.
It's probably good on hamburgers, too.
Now It’s Your Turn
There are a few variations you could try with your own fry sauce experiments. Try using barbeque sauce instead of catsup, add buttermilk to thin the mixture, add various seasoning salts, try adding some horseradish mustard, or whatever else you can think of.
It's not all been fun, though. After a long morning of eating fries and tasting fry sauce with my daughters (the fun part), I've sworn off French fries and fry sauce for the next month or so. I'm so sick of fry sauce I could scream.