It all started when I read this post in the Times’ food blog, Bitten. Start from cold oil, over low heat, and let the fries simmer for a good hour? Intriguing, for sure, except there’s that one icky fact: They’re still fried. Homey don’t deep fry, as regular readers may have noticed. Why? Oh, a little something I like to call 260 pounds of Debbie:
These days I’m nowhere near that heavy, but that’s because (among other reasons) I try to eat fried food infrequently. Of course right now I’m feeling pretty darn fat—creating and testing recipes for my cookbook is turning out to be more dangerous to my waistline than I expected. Or perhaps it’s the stress-eating that’s accompanying the recipe development (hmm, what would go well with fish… I know, a Joe-Joe! Or three), since generally speaking my recipes are quite healthy.
But I digress. That cold-oil technique intrigued me enough to do a little investigating—I wondered if perhaps it made the fries magically less fat-laden. And what do you know? They are. At least, the version created by the obsessives at Cook’s Illustrated results in fries that absorb 1/3 less oil. How bout that?
Even so, I never would’ve considered trying either version if it weren’t for one thing: Harry. Dude loves some French fries, but he turns up his nose at my baked version (which I think is pretty darn good, thank you very much). But mama’s tired of cooking things he won’t eat, so I decided it was time to compromise. And hey, if it turned out that these fries were fantastic and not horrifically bad for me, maybe I’d make them again.
So yesterday I decided to give it a shot. But by the time I got my act together, it was too close to dinnertime for the Times version. My only choice was Cook’s Illustrated, which takes about 40 minutes from the moment you start washing the spuds. Seems much more doable for a busy parent, if you ask me—especially since most of the time you’re not hovering over the stove. And here’s an unexpected bonus: No splatter! Because you’re using a deep pot, the oil just bubbles up over the potatoes and stays there. Much less cleanup.
As for the results: Yup, they’re good. Very good. But you know what? Junior ate a single fry. That ain’t enough to make me give up the baked version for good.
Easy Fried French Fries
From Cook’s Illustrated
4 or 5 large Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed, squared off, and cut into whatever sized fries you like
6 cups oil (I used peanut, but canola is fine, too)
Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels or brown paper bags and set aside.
Put the potatoes and oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot and turn the heat on high. Within about 5 minutes, the oil should be boiling—let it go for a good 15 minutes before you even think of stirring. You want to make sure there’s enough of a crust formed that they won’t break when you touch them. When they’re light golden brown, gently stir them with tongs or a long-handled wooden spoon, easing the stuck ones from the bottom of the pot.
Let them go another 5 to 10 minutes, until they’re as dark as you like them. Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, remove from the pot and drain on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt while still shiny, and serve right away.