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Freaky French Fry-Day

Instead of the customary excuse for not posting for a long time, I give you a pun that would have worked out better had I gotten this up yesterday.

Just editing this image made my mouth water.

Just editing this image made my mouth water.

As co-owner of Two Mile Brewing, one of my sacred duties is to personally taste-test everything on the menu. So, over the past couple weeks I’ve been eating a lot of french fries. It’s a dirty job, etc.

It turns out that – as you can see from the ingredients – there isn’t really much to making great french fries. It just takes a little more time than making bad french fries. Not using a commercial deep fryer and several quarts of oil makes it take that much longer, but who cares? They’re worth the wait.

The perfect french fry should have a skin that’s crunchy and savory, never charred, with enough oil still hanging around to make things interesting, but not enough to get soggy once the fries cool. Inside, they should be uniformly fluffy and tender, like a well-steamed baked potato, and neither bland nor noticeably seasoned. The subtle variation in proportions of these contrasting textures and flavors is what makes each fry its own experience, something to be savored and sought out again and again.

Anyway, let’s cook some.

  • 1 pint vegetable oil (I use canola)
  • 2 lb Russet potatoes
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • seasoning blend, to taste (see below)

If we were making potato salad, skins would be our friends, but in the fryer they’ll just turn into carbon, so peel the taters and slice into batons about 1 cm on a side. In a large bowl, toss with salt and vinegar, then add just enough cold water to cover. Rest for 30 minutes, then drain and thoroughly shake off any excess water. Blot dry if you’re really paranoid about spattering.

Pour the oil into an 8 qt stock pot – it should cover the bottom to about an inch. Heat to 150°C. Working in small batches (for 2 lb, probably six batches total), add the potatoes and fry for 3 minutes or until the batons are not quite cooked through, monitoring the temperature to maintain 150°C. Remove to paper towels and allow to cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. The residual heat will fully cook the interior of the spuds without letting more oil penetrate, and the outsides will firm up. The smaller fries may pick up a little color, but there shouldn’t be any significant browning. We’re just setting the stage for the Maillard products that will create our perfect crust in the second frying.

Once the fries have cooled, heat the oil to 180°C and fry for another 3 minutes, or until golden-brown. Again, work in small batches to keep the oil temperature up. Remove to paper towels and shake or blot dry of any excess oil. Toss with your seasoning(s) of choice and serve.

As far as seasoning, anything other than salt is of course optional. I’m still playing around, but here’s what I’ve liked best so far:

  • 1½ tbsp coarsely ground salt
  • 1 tbsp flaked parsley
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder

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