Archive for April, 2008

I figured I’ll keep this ‘soon to be banned foods by the gov’mnt’ thing going and talk about French Fries.

Deep fried potatoes are some of the most delectable, intricate, and fussy foods you could possibly hope to grace your kitchen with.  If not prepared correctly, with the proper respect and confidence, you can soon end up with a yellow, greasy mess.  But I’ve found that the perfect set of French Fries can be had, and had easily.

First, call them French Fries.  Take your ‘Anti-France’ dick out of your ear and deal with the fact that of all the countries on this planet, they are the only ones that have stuck by us as long as they have.  Stereotypes aside, anyone who says, “Welcome to the neighborhood’ with a giant sexy statue of a woman holding a torch is one bad-ass mofo to have in your corner.  Next, you have to get comfortable with the fact that you are about to submerge something you are about to eat in a rocket-hot tub of oil.  Not only that, but you’re going to do it twice.  It’ll sound unhealthy – but if done correctly, it doesn’t have to be.


Now then.  You’ll need some specialized equipment.  If you’ve never deep-fried anything before, prepare to be absolutely amazed.  You can do this one of two ways:  Stove-Top, or Deep-Fry.  Stove top is the cheapest, all you need is a heavy-duty (preferably cast-iron) pot at least 5 inches deep, some oil, and a frying thermometer – oh and get a splatter screen, unless you like cleaning oil off of every horizontal surface in your kitchen.  Deep Fry is the coolest, and you can get a deep fryer for a pretty good price now-a-days; look for internal heating elements, a stay-cool exterior, programmable digital thermostat, and a mag-safe power plug.  If you’re going to do this stove-top, make sure that you only fill the pot no more than half-way with oil.  370 degree liquid sloshing around is a great way to get to know your local fire department.

The trick to making French Fries comes from 3 things:  Prep, Par-Fry, and Drying.

(A) Prep: You’re going to need fries that range anywhere from 1/4”-1/3” thick.  If you like shoe-string fries, put your tampon away and grow a pair.  You’ll also need to heat your oil to roughly 335 degrees.  As you are cutting, put the sliced potatoes in a bowl of cold water, they’ll keep from browning.  If you decide to soak these overnight in cold water in your fridge; all the better.  Just cover and make sure to use them the next day.

(B) Par-Fry:  The real magic to french fries comes from the texture; a mild crunch concealing a soft explosion of flavor.  To achieve this you have to work in small batches of a handful or so.  The important thing is to make sure that the oil stays hot –

Deep Frying works on a very easy principle; thermodynamics.  As the food is submerged in the oil, water contained inside the food turns to vapor under the intense heat and tries to get out as steam.  The force of the water leaving the food and trying to find cooler places keeps the oil from getting in.  In order to sustain this, the oil has to remain hot, and water has to still be in the food.  If the oil drops too low, then the water won’t turn to vapor as quickly and you’ll end up with soggy food.  If the water in the food runs out, the oil will invade and burn the food very, very quickly.

So the first batch will be cooked for about 2-3 minutes at 340 degrees.  As you add the fries, turn the heat up to compensate for the cold fries.  After a few minutes, remove the fries and move them to a cooling rack to dry.  You’re going to want to look for an almost semi-translucent look to the potatoes, and if they’re turning golden, you’re too hot and you need to turn the oil down; or take them out. 

(C) Time for another important point.  Don’t use a paper towel, paper bag, tea towel, or a sock to dry these.  You want the oil to fall away from the food, not be pressed up against it.  Get a good cooling rack and stack a few layers of paper towels underneath.  The oil will drip from the food onto the towels, and then into your garbage.  Plus, it makes a great place to cool everything from cookies to cakes to anything else you need to put someplace and not have it sit in its own juices (say, fried chicken).


Once you have all of the ‘first batchers’ done, turn the oil to 370.  It’s important that you get that oil lava-hot, because now we’re going to put a crust on ‘em.  2-3 minutes in the oil bath will give them a great crispy crust and thoroughly heat the insides.  Take them out when done, put on the cooling rack, add some salt and there you have it – the best fries ever.

Try it sometime, you won’t be disappointed. 


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