Traditional fries are prepared by tossing potatoes in hot oil, usually cooking them twice: first, poaching them once in a not-too-hot oil and then, finishing them off in hotter oil. Not simple. In this method, the potatoes and oil begin cooking together from cold, totally defying all the rules of deep frying. The potatoes cook in a large pot, eventually reaching high heat, emerging golden and greaseless in less than 30 minutes. One pot, one cooking session, no blanching, no double frying, no electric deep-fat fryer, no thermometer. All you need is a good, large, heavy-duty cast iron or stainless pot.
A French-fry cutter (optional); 2 thick, clean kitchen towels; a 4 to 9-quart (4 to 9 l) heavy-duty saucepan or cast-iron pot; a kitchen timer; a wire skimmer or slotted metal spoon; two trays lined with paper towels; a warmed platter.
2 pounds (1 kg, about 4 large) russet potatoes (see Note)
2-1/2 quarts (2.5 l) vegetable oil, such as sunflower, at room temperature
Fine sea salt
Use firm, fresh potatoes. Rinse and soak them well to rid them of starch. The less starch in the potatoes, the crispier the fries will be.
1. Rinse the potatoes, peel them, rinse again, and cut lengthwise into 3/8-inch (10 mm) fries. (Precision is not essential here: I love the tiny, crunchy, almost-burnt bits that emerge from the fryer.)
2. Soak the potatoes in a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes, changing the water when it becomes cloudy (at least twice), until the water remains clear. (Soaking releases the starch in potatoes, making them less rigid and less likely to stick together while cooking.)
3. Drain the potatoes and wrap them in the kitchen towels to dry. Removing the excess liquid will speed up the cooking time and reduce the likelihood of the potatoes spattering once the oil is hot.
4. Transfer the potatoes to the saucepan and set it over the stove. Pour the oil over the potatoes. Do not cover the pot. Set the heat to high, stirring the potatoes gently with a metal spoon to distribute and prevent sticking. (A metal spoon lets you feel if any potato bits are stuck to the bottom of the pan and scrape them up.)
5. The oil should move from a peppy simmer to a boil in about 9 minutes. When the oil starts to boil, set a timer for 17 minutes. Stir the potatoes very gently every 3 to 4 minutes to prevent sticking and ensure even cooking. Don’t worry about over boiling – the oil should boil rapidly and evenly with no need to adjust the heat throughout the entire process.
6. When the timer rings, the potatoes should have begun to take on color, turning from white to slightly golden, but will still have about 4 more minutes remaining until they are fully cooked (this time may vary depending on the type of potatoes and pot you use, how dry the potatoes are and the type of source heat etc. While in some kitchens they have taken about 21 minutes after coming to the boil, other tests have taken up to 40 minutes so pay close attention to visual cues). For the last few minutes watch the fries closely, stirring gently. Once they are a deep golden brown, taste one to make sure they are truly crisp and firm on the outside with a creamy interior. It should not be the least bit soggy, so resist the urge to remove them from the oil too soon. When you are happy with the consistency, carefully transfer the rest of the fries with the wire skimmer or a metal slotted spoon to the paper towel-lined tray to drain. Season with salt and serve immediately on a warmed platter.
This recipe was first published in My Master Recipes.
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