• Sam Burgess

Level-Up Ketchup with Handcut Frites

Updated: Jan 29

Ketchup is a condiment found in almost every American household. For better or worse, we seem to be obsessed with its tangy-sweet-savory flavor and highly dippable consistency. But the dipping sauce has gone through the wringer, labeled as unnecessary, overly-sweet, and simply basic. What if we took everything good about ketchup, amped up the flavor, and brought the condiment to new levels? Let’s make it happen!

National Geographic says: “Ketchup comes from the Hokkien Chinese word, kê-tsiap, the name of a sauce derived from fermented fish. It is believed that traders brought fish sauce from Vietnam to southeastern China.” Its roots in European and eventually American cuisine stem from England: ”the British likely encountered ketchup in Southeast Asia, returned home, and tried to replicate the fermented dark sauce.”

This is an interesting fact, as Chinese cuisine is notorious for its incredible selection of dipping and flavoring sauces. Who would have thought ketchup found it’s way around the world before it ended up on our chicken nuggets?

Europeans were very experimental and used to make ketchup with all kinds of ingredients, including red wine, mushrooms, anchovies, leeks, peppercorns, all-spice, chilies, and much more. In parts of Great Britain today, there are still mushroom ketchup manufacturers and plenty of fans to eat it up!

American ketchup recipes were small-batch, tomato-based condiments for the wealthy. That is until 1834 when Dr. John Cook Bennet cooked up some ketchup along with a marketing scheme for ketchup as a cure-all medicine pill. From jaundice to diarrhea to indigestion, ketchup was prescribed as a medicinal miracle! However, eventually, the scientific community debunked this “cure-all” and Dr. Bennet went bankrupt. This didn’t stop Americans from wanting more of the condiment, and a new food craze was created!

This ketchup recipe takes inspiration from a variety of sources, but is loosely based on a recipe from the groundbreaking San Diego restaurant, Urban Solace. Chef Sam Burgess did an extended internship at Urban Solace for a few months in 2015 and was drawn to the fact that they made almost everything from scratch. This included the ketchup to go with every order of their fries. Sadly, Urban Solace closed in early 2019, but you can still find Chef Matt Gordon rocking out with Urban Solace Catering!

This Level-up Ketchup has a variety of spices and aromatic vegetables that not only amp up the flavor, but create a velvety and dippable consistency. Apples, raisins, ginger, and brown sugar chime in a rounded and fruity sweetness; while the onion, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce bring a power chord of umami. Serrano chilis bring a mild heat that is balanced by the smoky paprika, aromatic cinnamon, and complex star anise aromas. This laundry list of ingredients helps us understand how far this condiment has come!

The FTT Utility Knife makes quick work of all these aromatic fruit and vegetables, and it is as simple as putting everything in a saucepot and simmering. What better to serve with this beautifully complex condiment rather than some hand-cut fries?

This fry technique is a different one and makes things easier because you only cook the fries once. The use of Yukon Gold potatoes, or another waxy variety, creates a creamy interior with an incredible crunchy exterior. The prepared potato matchsticks are submerged in cold oil, brought up to a boil, and cooked, without stirring, until limp. Once the exteriors get hard, they are stirred and finished cooking until crispy in the hot oil.

The whole process is much faster than blanching, cooling, and frying again, and makes for easy cleanup. I added some strained bacon fat to the oil for a savory and rich backnote that made the fries simply irresistible! Always season with plenty of salt and fresh cracked pepper while they are still hot.

Put the two together and you have some ketchup and fries that can stand up to almost any other snack. It may take longer than a visit to your local drive-thru, but the payoff is well worth the effort!

Level-Up Ketchup with Handcut Frites

This ketchup is levels beyond the basic and corn-syrup-sweet American ketchup. Crafted with plenty of aromatics and spices to craft a complex yet satisfying condiment for a variety of foods. What better to start dipping than some hand-cut frites?

Recipe by Sam Burgess

Forge To Table

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Servings: 6 (makes 2-½ cups ketchup)


  • ½ each apple, skinned, chopped

  • ¼ each onion, chopped

  • ½ each serrano pepper, chopped (seeded, optional)

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 2 teaspoons ginger, minced

  • 1 cup vegetable stock

  • 1, 14 oz can diced tomato in juice

  • ¼ cup ketchup (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons raisins

  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 1-½ teaspoon smoked paprika

  • ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon

  • ½ each star anise, ground (optional)

  • 2 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce (optional)

  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, washed, cut into ¼ inch matchsticks

  • 6 cups vegetable or peanut oil, for frying

  • 2 tablespoons duck fat or bacon fat, strained (optional)

  • Salt & pepper, to taste


  1. (ASSEMBLE INGREDIENTS) Use your favorite Forge To Table knife to prepare aromatic ingredients. In a large saucepan, combine chopped apple, chopped onion, chopped serrano, garlic, ginger, vegetable stock, diced tomato in juice, ketchup (optional), raisins, dark brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, smoked paprika, cinnamon, ground star anise, and Worchestershire sauce (optional).

  2. (FINISH KETCHUP) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced by ⅓ and syrupy, about 1 hour-1 hour 30 minutes total. Remove from heat and use a tabletop blender or immersion blender to blend until completely smooth. Let cool to room temp before storing.

  3. (PREPARE FRIES) Set wire rack lined with a triple layer of paper towels. Combine potato matchsticks and oil in a dutch oven or high-sided sauce pot. Cook over high heat until the oil has reached a rolling boil, about 10 minutes. Continue to cook, without stirring, until potatoes are limp but the exteriors start to get hard, about 15 minutes.

  4. (FINISH FRIES) Use tongs to gently stir potatoes, scraping any that stick to the bottom, and continue to cook until golden and crisp, 10-15 minutes longer. Using tongs, transfer crispy fries to the prepared cooling rack. Season with salt and pepper immediately.

  5. (SERVE IMMEDIATELY) Serve warm fries with homemade ketchup and enjoy!

Chef’s Notes

  • Do not substitute the Yukon Gold potatoes for russets or another variety. The technique used will not work!

  • Try the Ketchup on a variety of applications such as broiled sausages, grilled cheese sandwiches, sweet potato fries, and much more!

If you liked this recipe, use Discount Code: TESTKITCHEN at the Forge To Table Shop checkout to support more amazing recipe content!

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