French Fries (beta)

[Note: I’m starting a new category called “needs improvement” and I’m serious about it. Use the comments or contact me directly with suggestions. I’ll be updating these as I discover improvements. If you have one of those recipes that “seems like a good idea” but never seems to work right, send it along and we’ll see what we can do…]

Peter was frying chicken last night (he insists on deep frying but that’s another story) so I made french fries. I’ve done them before with mild success. My best outcome was with sweet potatoes. I’ll keep at this and post updates as I perfect the technique.

The basic technique is generally agreed: cut high-starch potatoes, soak in cold water, dry well, fry in low oil, drain, fry again in high oil, salt and enjoy.

First: high-starch potatoes are generally russets or bakers. This is what I used.

I cut them on our v-slicer/mandoline, using the 1/4″ julienne blade.

This is a departure from how I’ve done fries in the past – by hand with a nice big knife. I don’t think it was an improvement for fries – they were too small for my liking. Using these “fries” for hash browns, fritattas or tortas could be wonderful.

Second: soaking the cut fries. This helps reduce the amount of starch on the surface of the fry so that it doesn’t form a crust during frying. This means the steam can escape from the inside of the fry, making the interior light and fluffy. Allegedly.

Dry them really, really well, or you’ll be sorry.

Next, heat the oil to about 320F. We use peanut oil since it has a nice high smoke point (never heat an oil above its smoke point – it’s dangerous and will break down the oil and make it nasty). We tend to overshoot on the lower temperatures since our fryer has such slow recovery, and dumping a whole potato in makes the temperature drop really fast.

(Our 327F dropped to just under 300F when I dropped in the fries.)

Once the fries are floppy and soggy and generally horrible looking, pull them out and drain them.

These should be more spread out, but I only have so much counter space (and remember, someone in my kitchen is also making fried chicken at the same time).

Heat the oil to 365F or 370F and put the fries back in. These tiny little 1/4″ fries cooked fast – two or three minutes for each step.

The finished product:

What I learned:

  • 1/4″ fries are too small for this application. My hand-cut 3/8-1/2″ fries worked better.
  • Two-step frying really does seem to make a difference. The inside of the fries are pretty fluffy – even at this small size.

Other things to try:

  • Some other starchy roots
  • Much larger fries – planks?
  • Try grapeseed oil for a higher temperature final fry
  • Try a more flavorful oil using these small fries at lower temperatures – walnut? olive?
  • High-temperature bake in lieu of final fry
  • Use these tiny fries in a torta or gratin for different texture than the usual slices

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