A great French fry recipe, for most of us, involves driving past McDonalds (seriously, they have pretty good fries for a chain). And Ill be the first to admit that a home French fries recipe is a lot of trouble. So is a wife, but if you take the care and time and loving attention, you get remarkable dividends.
So it is with this fabulous crispy French fries recipe. My beer batter recipe (which see) makes the best batter-dipped fish I have ever tasted; I never serve it without these chips on the side.
French fries have got to be the absolute favorite way of preparing a potato anywhere in the world, and yet, strangely, they are seldom made in the home. I would suppose thats because, like every other menu item at fast food, you can get it easier (and maybe cheaper unless youre Extra Large Size Ordering), but I can guarantee you will not get it better.
Preparation is simple, but essential. You peel and trim firm white potatoes (any Idaho brand will do but golden ones do have a certain texture and flavor that I consider superior). You then take the peeled potatoes and cut then into lengths. Heres where the fanatic in me rises to the surface: all chips should be the same size and shape, the lengths as exact as you can make them. This is part of the reason, when you have potato chips, French fries or any other kind of deep-fried potatoes, you discover a few dark brown or even black ones in the bowl or on the plate; they were not uniform size and shape.
Yes, this involves some loss of potato in cuttingyou need a lot of potatoes for serving the family because youll have a lot of trimmings. Keep those, by the way, if you really want to be a gourmet chef about it: those potato trimmings are delicious flavor thickeners for homemade soups and stews. They can also be added to a chicken, beef or fish stock for extra flavor and texture to the broth.
Because I am a fanatic about these, I insist that my French fries stay crisp, even while Im eating them. Heres where you old friend the warming oven comes in. Set a glass or ovenproof bowl or dish in the warming and let the fries soak in warm clear water for an hour. Add a piece of lemon, which helps them keep their color; of course, in the warming oven, theyll stay the right temperature throughout.
Now why soak them? Remember basic chemistry. If you dont, Ill remind you that potatoes are a vegetable, but a starch vegetable. That is, they have starch throughout, especially on their cut surface. Soaking them in the warm water gradually converts these starches into sugars (so you actually will get less sugar content in these fries than in non-soaked ones). These surface sugars, when deep fat fried, go all crispy and stay crispy throughout.
After the hour is up, remove the fries and dry them thoroughly on clean muslin or paper towels.
Set the deep fat fryer at 350 degrees and lower the fries carefully into the hot oil. Cook them for ten minutesthis will cook the potatoes but they wont be that crispy golden brown yet. Now pull them out and raise the temperature of the oil to 450 degrees, then return the fries to the hot oil. Cook them for a further 3 minutes or until they float to the top, golden brown and deliciously crispy. Salt and serve with ketchup, horseradish sauce or ranch dressing, and you cant beat them!