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Chef Pete

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Make Great French Fries at Home

August 20, 2019
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It’s probably no surprise that potatoes are the world’s fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and corn.

Potato chips; potato pancakes; pies; breads; soups; casseroles; dumplings; stuffed potatoes; baked, steamed, broiled, sautéed, stir-fried, and mashed potatoes … oh my! The potato is not only one of the world’s most versatile vegetables, but also one that’s universally loved.

Especially if you crave French fries!

Ironically, French fries may not have even been invented in France, but in Belgium (or at least that’s the way the Belgians see it.) Even more ironic is the fact that the French don’t even call them French fries. They call them Pomme Frites. The Spanish “Papas Fritas” have a similar date of origin, so it’s a matter of speculation as to who really fired up the first batch and exclaimed, “Would you like fries with that?”

No matter who invented French Fries, they’re a decadent indulgence, whether you enjoy them with your favorite burger, hot dog, sandwich, steak, or just on their own.

If it wasn’t for the fact that French fries require a large pot of hot oil to cook them correctly, there’s no doubt everyone would be making them at home on a regular basis. But if you’ve ever tried to make them at home, you may have discovered they don’t usually come out as well as the ones at restaurants.

How can something as simple as 2 ingredients be so difficult to prepare?

This is a classic example of where the technique is equal to, if not more important than, the ingredients themselves. Wrong ingredients, bad results. Right ingredients, but wrong technique? Still, bad results.

Great, homemade French fries require both the right ingredients AND the right technique to come out as well as the ones you enjoy in your favorite restaurants.

Now, when I say “homemade,” I’m speaking of using raw potatoes not the frozen, store-bought ones. Those potatoes have already been processed by one of the steps you’ll have to master at home, if you want those same results.

In fact, it’s that exact step that’s THE most important and the one that slips most people up. It’s called blanching.

Start by choosing the right potato.

First, and equally as important, you need to start with the right kind of potato, and that would be the Russet (or Idaho) potato, which has all the right things going for it. They’re high in starch, which creates a fluffy, mealy interior, and they’re long enough to cut into sticks.

Medium-starch potatoes, like Yukon Gold, come out less crisp and somewhat soggy, and low-starch potatoes, like Red Skins and White Boiling Potatoes, are just a disaster. It’s best to just use the high-starch ones if you really want the best results.

Next, scrub and cut your potatoes. You can leave the peel on or off, its a matter of your preference. That doesn’t in any way affect the outcome nor does the size of the stick, although the standard (classic size) is 3/8” x 3/8” by whatever length the potato is.

Rinsing, Soaking and Drying

Once your potatoes are cut, its time to wash off the exterior starch, which can be done by rinsing or soaking them in cold water. I prefer to do both. I rinse well, drain them, and then let them soak in lightly salted water for a few hours.

Drying your rinsed and soaked fries-to-be is EXTREMELY important and a critical step to ensure your finished fries are crisp and golden. After draining them well, lay them out on multiple layers of cloth or paper towels. Pat them all over, change the towels and repeat. Finally, allow them to air dry for at least 20 minutes.

Oil Blanching to Cook, Fry to Crisp until Brown

The real secret of making crisp, golden French fries is to cook them twice, once to actually cook them to tender, the second time to brown and crisp them.

First, blanch-fry your French fries in 250 °F oil for about 10 minutes. This will cook them without browning them.

After 10 minutes, remove the blanched chips from the oil onto absorbent paper towels while you raise the temperature of the oil to 350 °F.

Second, return the blanched fries to the hot oil, and finish frying them (about 5 more minutes) until they’re golden brown and crisp.

Remove from the oil, shake of the excess oil, salt and serve.

Enjoy with flavor!

I enjoy eating my matchstick-size fries just salted, but like most people, I enjoy thicker fries with ketchup. In England, they enjoy theirs with malt vinegar. In Belgium, with mayonnaise.

Other ways to enjoy your tasty fries include sprinkling them with seasonings, such as Lemon Pepper; Spicy Cajun; Old Bay; Ranch; a mixture of powdered Chipotle, Chili and Cumin; Italian Seasonings (Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary) with grated Parmesan cheese; or the fashionable (and very expensive) White Truffle Oil.

However you enjoy your French fries, try these simple tips to make your very own at home.

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