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Monday, June 09, 2008

The BEST French Fries

Porter House New York
10 Columbus Circle
4th Floor
New York, NY 10019

French fries are a real treat, one that recalls American food and French or Belgian bistro cooking all at the same time. They’re also one of the most enduringly popular foods on the planet. Who doesn’t love French fries?

Great French fries are rare even in restaurants, so imagine how much pleasure can be had by cook and “diner” alike when they’re made at home. It’s not as difficult as you might think: The key is double-frying the potatoes, once to ensure the inside is cooked and remains fluffy; a second time to achieve maximum crunch.

French fries needn’t be just a side dish. I love serving them as an hors d’oeuvres along with dipping sauces like curried or chili mayonnaise, or making them the focus of a decidedly decadent fondue by serving them with a pot of melted Cheddar cheese sauce.

Special equipment: Stove-top fryers can be dangerous because of the open flame, so I recommend that you only make these with an electric deep-fryer with an adjustable thermostat. Buy the biggest one you can afford so you can cook a large quantity of fries (or egg rolls, or whatever) rapidly.

3 pounds Idaho or russet potatoes, well washed and scrubbed
Peanut or vegetable oil, for filling a fryer. If you dare, add 50% beef lard or suet to the oil for more robust flavor

1. Preheat the oil to 245°F.

2. Either by hand or using a French-fry cutter, cut even fries that are ¼-inch-square and 5- or 6-inches long, gathering them in a bowl of cold water as you work.

3. When the fryer is hot and ready to cook, drain the fries of all water and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. This is critical. Water and salt are the enemies of frying oil. The fries can sit on paper towels for a few minutes, in a single layer, to air dry if you’re not sure you’ve gotten all the water out. Once dry, add just enough fries to the fryer basket to fill it halfway. This will insure even cooking without allowing the frying oil temperature to drop too much, which results in greasy fries.

This first fry is also called blanching since it’s not meant to add any color. The fries will only be par-cooked and their color will only change from raw white to slightly creamier color. The batch of fries is done when they appear to be a more yellow-white than raw-white color, approximately 5 minutes. Remove each batch, drain of all oil, and spread out on paper towels to cool.

4. After all fries have been blanched, they will hold for several hours. Refrigerate them, covered, if you like, but do not freeze them.

5. Bring a fryer to 365° to 385°F. (It can be the same oil, but only reuse it once.) Cook the fries in batches. Do not overload the fryer, each batch should fill the basket halfway. Fry each batch to a rich, golden-brown color. Time will vary from 2 to 3 depending on the fryer and the speed with which it reheats. For crispier fries, fry a bit longer. Drain and salt each batch as soon as its done, and keep them covered and warm while you fry the remaining batches.

6. Serve the fries piping hot alongside the dish of your choice, or on their own.

Serves 4 as a side dish or hors d’oeuvres

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