This week I found myself with an over-abundance of potatoes on hand, and a crazy idea to make my OWN french fries. I’ll start with the ending here by saying that they came out marvelous and, hours later, have still not caused any stomach distress. But the path to get there was long and a bit winding…
Today’s special adventure: Homemade French Fries
I love a good french fry. I will boldly declare it. I am fat and I love french fries that are crisp with a bit of tender give and delicate potato flavor mixed with a good shake of salt, dipped into a home-made relish sauce. Delicious. When I spent a year studying abroad in France I loved their “frites” with the various sundry toppings they offered: cheese curds, gravy, marinara sauce… not so much with “moules*” though.
I don’t end up getting fries often though, for a variety of reasons; top being that usually fried potatoes (fried anythings really) end up causing me digestion distress due to either their greasiness or their preservatives or who knows really. So for the sake of my tummy’s happiness I’ve often gone months and months (years?) without touching anything as deeply and lovingly fried as a good set of french fries.
But not this week. This week I thought “Let’s be crazy. I have all these freaking potatoes. I could make my OWN french fries!”
It all began innocently enough after looking up some recipes online with asking Adam D to get us a large quantity of basic Canola oil for frying (I’ve heard that peanut is the way to go but really we were saving some money and went with generic store brand Canola. Feel free to discuss the benefits/downsides to various oils in comments but know that I selected this kind for simple reasons.++).
In the mean time I had emailed my mother asking about my grandma’s old way of frying fries up for us; because I didn’t remember her going through NEARLY as many steps as the recipes I was finding online seemed to suggest. Well, turns out she DID do all those steps so I girded my mental loins for a long and learning-experience style process.
I got the largest pot I own onto the stove in anticipation of Adam’s arrival with the oil (and hopefully a thermometer to monitor the heat of the oil!)
Then I started slicing and julienning those lovely potatoes, storing them in a nice bowl of cold water with a dash of vinegar to prevent browning.
Adam arrived perfectly as I slid the last few potato strips into the bowl (I know, I was very happily surprised too!) He had a gallon of Canola AND a nifty inexpensive clip-on thermometer! Sweet!
I set about getting that thermometer cleaned up and attached to my large pot.
Now, all the recipes I consulted seemed to suggest I should use only a 1/2 gallon of oil. But when I was adding oil to my monstrous pot I couldn’t help but think “That doesn’t look like nearly enough! I don’t want my fries to all clump to the bottom!” I poured the whole gallon into the pot and set it to boil on medium high.
After about 20 minutes of checking the pot to see it was only very barely reaching 200 degrees I forwent my earlier decision to keep the temperature low to prevent any possibly mishaps and cranked it to high instead. I did keep a closer eye on it though and happily watched the heat climb much faster towards the goal of 350 degrees.
Hoping to prevent any potential splashing or boil-over (even though the oil was only barely halfway filling the pot so I figured there would be NO WAY anything could boil-over**) I took a few measures designed to keep me and the fries safe from mishap: I carefully drained the potatoes and patted them dry with paper towels. I also moved the burner heat back down to medium.
Then I spooned two huge spoonfuls of potato strips into the oil.
Needless to say I don’t have a picture of the following scene but imagine, if you will, a pot filled with oil, madly bubbling as though it was racing for some sort of undetermined glory, liquid glistening down the sides of a pot overflowing with grease, two adults frantically trying to “blow down” the oil bubbles…
Yeah I’ve NEVER been happier that I don’t have a gas-burning stove than I was on Monday night. So a great tip? Put LESS oil in the pan. Put FEWER potatoes in at one go, and for heaven’s sake don’t practice this on a gas stove!
The rest of the process was very messy and a bit time-consuming but went off rather well.
After draining each of the (much smaller) batches of cooked but not yet crisp potato-strips we let them cool for an hour. We… found other lovely ways to entertain ourselves in the meantime… yes, you can let your naughty mind wander where it will…
When we got back to the kitchen I turned the oil back on to start it reheating and got it a bit hotter (375). This time (after I cleaned up a bit of the slightly cooled oil mess from the first frying) I followed my own tips above and ended up NOT spilling copious amounts of hot oil into my poor stove top. Huzzah!
Once this fry was done it was back to some paper towels again and a bit of seasoned salt.
They turned out delicious! Crisp, a bit tender in the center of the larger strips, lightly salted and oh-so-flavorful. It might have taken about 2.5 or even 3 hours to do it but I think, given enough practice, I could shorten that to about 1.5 hours.
Adam and I enjoyed small sandwiches and salads along with our fries and called it a raving success.
Today’s recipe: Homemade French Fries
- Potatoes, with skins on, sliced into thin strips
- Cold water
- 1/2 tbsp vinegar
- 1/2 gallon of oil
- Lots of paper towels or towels you plan to wash separately in the laundry
The entire process is fairly simple, if time-consuming.
- Store the sliced potatoes in a bowl of cold water with the vinegar until you’re ready to cook them
- Heat oil to 350 degrees
- Drain and thoroughly dry the potatoes
- Cautiously add about a large spoonful of potatoes into the oil
- Stir occasionally, cooking for 3 minutes
- Removed to pan or bowl lined with your paper towels to drain. They will be limp at this stage and still fairly pale but should be tender.
- Finish all of your raw strips of potato in this manner.
- Turn off the heat on your oil and leave your once-fried strips to cool for an hour or so (however long it takes for you to finish whatever entertainments you choose to take up) 😉
- When you return, turn the heat on the oil and get it up to 375 degrees this time.
- Once ready, add one spoonful of the limp potato strips and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent clumping
- Remove the fries to another clean set of towels to drain again, adding your seasonings and shaking them around in it
- Repeat steps 10-11 until all of your fries have been fried this second time.
- Turn off the oil.
- Wait a few minutes and prepare your favorite dipping sauce
- Eat fries and smile!
The meal turned out delicious and I STILL have many potatoes left. Still, I think I’ll opt for some boiled potatoes next time. Might save poor Adam on the oil-coated dishes!***
*Mussels. Yeah. Still not a fan of french fries smothered in shellfish…
++Okay so I’ve since discovered why folks prefer Peanut to other oils. Turns out Peanut oil “smokes” at 450 degrees. Canola will happily do that at a much lower temperature of 200. Might explain all of that…smoky smog in the house!
**This here is what I think they call “foreshadowing” in literary circles…
***Though even he had to admit that the pot had never before had quite such a nice glistening sheen…