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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Perfect French Fries

French Fries in cold oil that are crisp outside and fluffy inside? How can this be?
A couple months ago when I saw Cook's Illustrated on PBS demonstrating a slow cooked French Fry recipe I was dubious. They claimed that putting fresh potatoes into cold oil then bringing it up to frying temperature would turn out fries that were crisp on the outside while remaining fluffy on the inside as well as full of potato taste and not greasy.

Really? It went against everything I knew about frying potatoes (which is ALOT). It was common knowledge that frying potatoes at the wrong temperature created fries that were greasy and limp. How could taking them from cold to hot create any other result? After all, the queen of home cooking, Julia Child, had taught us nearly 50 years ago that the keys to French Fries were soaking, icing, frying low, then frying high. It was a multi-step process. How could such an elaborate procedure (which was often hit or miss) be simplified so drastically?

The folks at Cook's Illustrated were kind enough to point out the science behind the idea. It seems that dropping potatoes into hot oil actually increases the amount of grease soaked up because it forces out the potato's natural moisture. So, frying at a slightly low temperature seemed to redouble that effect - thus the limp greasy fries. Taking them from cold to frying temperature slowly trapped the moisture in the potatoes and kept them from getting soggy.

Well, as luck would have it, I had some Yukon Gold potatoes last evening that I wanted to fry. Yukon Gold potatoes work best for this recipe because of their smooth and velvety texture. So, I set about slicing up some potatoes and dropping them in cold oil.

The result was fantastic. These were some of the best fries I have ever done in my kitchen. They were crisp on the outside with a satisfying "crunch", while the interior was light and fluffy and tasted like the best fresh fries. I'm sold on the technique. Sprinkled with some Kosher salt these easily stacked up against some of my favorite fries of all time including Fiske, In N' Out Burger, and Five Guys.

If you're a French Fry fan, this recipe is a must try. You'll be shocked at how stupidly simple it is to turn out incredible fries every single time right at home!

Note: I use a very inexpensive chopper to create my fries. It cuts perfect 1/4" square planks in seconds. However, if you don't have a chopper see the video following the recipe for instructions.

2 1/2 lbs yukon gold potatoes (about 6 medium), scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch batons (strips)
6 cups peanut oil, for frying
kosher salt

Scrub potatoes but do not remove skins. Cut potatoes in 1/4" strips using technique below or a french fry slicer. Place uncooked fries on paper towels and dry thoroughly.

Place oil in dutch oven or deep fryer. Place fries in cold oil stirring them to distribute evenly and insure all are covered.

Turn heat to high (or deep fryer to 375°). DO NOT TOUCH THE POTATOES FOR 15 MINUTES! Allow the oil to come to a boil. After 15 minutes stir the fries in the pot or fryer to insure they are not sticking.

Allow fries to continue cooking until they are golden brown and crispy outside while fluffy inside - about 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Remove fries from oil using strainer or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Salt with coarse Kosher salt and serve hot.



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