Fries By Any Other Name

Frites
Done Right, Frites can be the accent of any meal, or the star!

Whether you are in the car that says Frites, French Fries, Freedom Fries, or just plain old ‘Fries’, the train of fried potatoes tend to be one of the favorite snack foods of the world!  Slather them with ketchup, Sriracha, Barbecue Sauce, or as the Europeans, with mayo, fresh and crispy fries are absolutely delicious.

We have gone to extraordinary lengths to resurrect left-over fries, and even though ghosts of their former selves, we love them immensely.  However, we seem to fall short of fries made at home.  This was a journey of mine for years before I finally found the philosophy of good fry making.

Some years ago, when working at Catoosa restaurant ‘Mollies Landing’ (still one of the best restaurants in Oklahoma in my opinion) I would take baked potatoes home, put them in the refrigerator, and dice, ice-cold pre-baked potatoes into cubes, and fry them in oil.  The resultant texture of crispy and creamy was incredible, add a little steak seasoning, top off with a fried egg and BAM!  I was ‘Doc’, king of the hang-over the following morning. (back then I went by ‘Doc’)

I had not made the connection of ‘par-cooking’ potatoes until years later.  It was only after reading through Anthony Bourdains ‘Les Halles’ that I put the two together.  Pre-fry then fry again, but much hotter.  This yielded awesome results when I finally tried it, but talk about time consuming.  This is really difficult to do in bulk in the home kitchen, but it’s still the gold standard in my opinion. Below are several techniques to make quality frites from plain old raw potatoes.

  1. The Cut:  Cubes, sticks, or hashed it doesn’t matter as long at the potatoes have a blanch first, everything turns up magic later.
  2. Pre-baked:  This works really well.  Use leftover baked potatoes from the day before.  Cut into batons (skin-on for rusticity….is that a word?) while cold, then let them come up to room temp. Cold fries will kill the heat in a home fryer and they need to be tossed into pretty hot oil. It takes awhile for home-fryers to come back up to temp, and the results are limp, raggy fries.  Blech!
  3. Boiled: YUP! BOILED!  This really works as a blanch, and it’s fast too.
    a.  Cut raw potatoes into your desired form, and throw in boiling water for about 3-5-minutes depending on cut.
    b. Just un-like pasta cook just past al-dente.  We want to make sure the starches on the surface crisp-up perfectly.  This method needs a bit of care, and fries work better if cut into country-style wedges instead of shoestrings, as the cooked spuds will break and fall apart.
    c. Set fries out to dry while bringing oil up to temp.  Now fry normally.
  4. Home-Fries:  I made a special category here, for a trick I picked up from a cooking magazine…can’t remember which one.
    a.  Cut raw-potatoes into cubes, and throw into boiling water for about 3 minutes.
    b.  Toss in a teaspoon or two of baking soda and cook for another minute.
    c.  pull out and place on a parchment prepared sheet-pan after letting drain-dry for a bit.
    d.  Sprinkle with salt and seasoning, and throw them in a 500-degree oven.  Blast them with heat for about 5-minutes or more, occasionally stirring around so they get crisp on all sides and..magic.

A couple of more ideas to keep in mind.
If frying in oil, always season right after pulling them out of the fryer while hot.  This way salt and seasoning sticks.  The standard restaurant choice is Lawry’s seasoning salt, which is pretty much the same thing as celery salt.  I like to dress with crushed Urfa Chilis, Truffle Salt, Alleppo Chili Flakes, Bourbon-Smoked black Pepper, or Hickory Smoked sea-salt (easy to make at home).

If using the ‘baking’ method, salt first, and season with more delicate stuff later.  Baking at high-temp will sometimes kill the flavors of some spices, and herbs.  Other Frite ideas?  Be sure to post in the comments!