The potato is something of a maligned vegetable. I myself, admittedly, am quick to claim that nothing you can make flour out of can be a vegetable in a nutritional context, even when thinking about my dense, chewy potato rolls. Simultaneously, I recognize that potatoes are a staple, a famine-buster, a pre-run energy booster, and a comfort food.
We don’t make a lot of potatoes, not because I can’t, but because they are a pain to make. Mashed potatoes? Somehow I end up with potatoes everywhere and like 3 sinks full of dishes, and I don’t have a dishwasher because I live in Massachusetts in a Quaker house that was built in 1888. No, really. Roasted potatoes? Take like 45 minutes. Baked potatoes take like an hour. French fries? Love them, but I don’t have a deep fryer. I don’t have time for this shit, I have websites to maintain. I’m a good cook, so I know I can throw a steak and asparagus on the grill and cook it all at the same time in 8-10 minutes.
I also know that I can’t fry anything in oil that isn’t hot when you put your food into it, which is why when I saw a recipe for “cold oil” french fries that didn’t make a huge mess and weren’t greasy, I was in total, utter disbelief. I’ve made some serious fried food – my cast iron is tattered with a near-permanent sheen on it. Fried food is exhausting to make, unless you have a deep fryer. The oil must be hot and monitored constantly. Oil splatters. Oil is a big “you don’t know what you don’t know” food – deep frying is exceedingly dangerous.
But I have been there. I’ve seen the wasteland. There was no mess. There was no spattering. I didn’t die. In fact, they were some of the best french fries I’ve ever eaten, and I made them myself, at home, in about 25 minutes, on the stove, in one pan. After reading this post, you can make them too.
I don’t want to get sued, so I’m just going to spell it out. Like I said, deep frying is dangerous. If you decide to deep fry something, you’re making a choice, so don’t come
suing crying to me when Fluffy catches on fire. Do not fry food when drunk. Do not touch oil – oil does not boil like water. Do not add water of any kind to oil. Do not add frozen food to oil. Do not leave oil unattended.
If you start seeing smoke, you’re doing it wrong. Turn your stove off immediately.
Never put water on oil, even if it is on fire. You cannot extinguish liquid with more liquid. Use baking soda. Use a fire extinguisher. Call 911.
Scared yet? No? OK, let’s do this. YOU WILL NEED:
Yukon Gold Potatoes – Yukon Golds are what most french fries are made of, and they’re easy to cook. You can fry up to 2 layers of fries in your pan – 1 layer = 1 good-sized potato.
1 sharp chef’s knife.
1 dutch oven or cast iron skillet. I am guessing a regular frying pan will work, but dutch ovens and cast irons are inherently better for frying because they distribute heat better and because they are deep.
Salt – it doesn’t really matter what kind. I have a superfine salt I use for popcorn that I used with this recipe, but if you want to use coarse sea salt, feel free.
A stove – I have a gas stove. Gas stoves heat faster and hotter. It’s OK if you have an electric. My “medium” on a gas is medium high on an electric.
Oil – enough to cover, completely, all of the potatoes you are making. I use peanut oil. Peanut oil is the best oil for frying because it remains stable at high temperatures. Peanut oil won’t smoke until it hits 450 degrees. Most people who are allergic to peanuts can eat peanut oil, your mileage may vary. Have you eaten at Chick-Fil-A? You’ve eaten peanut oil.
Just some additional clarification on this – you should know what kind of oil you can or can’t eat. A couple of readers of this post have contacted me to say some people who are allergic to peanuts cannot eat peanut oil. Anecdotally, I know that most people can eat it. According to the NIH: “It has been shown, in well-designed studies, that refined peanut oil can be safely consumed by the vast majority of peanut-allergic individuals,” but like anything, your choice of oil is up to you, and I can’t be held responsible for your cooking choices. I thank the readers for the feedback.
OK, ready to roll? Good. Wash your hands, then get dem potatoes and give them a good scrub. If you don’t have a brush, just use your hands and give them a good-old potato massage under cold running water. Next, you can peel the potatoes, or you can be a real man.
Then, get your knife, and make some french-fry shaped things. I wouldn’t make them a whole lot bigger than this, but it’s up to you. If you’re fancy, you could make shoestrings (McDonald’s-Sized).
Next, put your french fries in your (clean) pan in a nice, even layer, or two layers. Cover them COMPLETELY with oil.
Next, turn on your stove. I went to slightly higher than medium on my gas, so if you have an electric, use medium high. You can always adjust, they’re just potatoes.
Wait just a second, Joe. Won’t they just absorb all of the oil and become gross?
No, they don’t, and the reason is because of the relative moisture that already exists inside of the fresh potato.
By now, you may notice there are a few bubbles in your pan around your potatoes. Keep ‘em going. After about 5 minutes, the oil will really be boiling. Don’t stir them, the potatoes will break. Again, there really shouldn’t be smoke here. If your oil isn’t boiling or bubbling by now, turn the heat up.
Keep an eye on your fries, but no need to hover like a hawk. You can lie on your kitchen floor and listen to Pink Floyd if you want to. After about 15 minutes, the potatoes will start to take on a good texture – this is when you should stir them using tongs, because starch sticks to itself, so break the fries apart without breaking them, if that makes sense. You should feel the fries starting to crisp with the tongs.
After you’ve separated your fries, give it another 5 minutes, and they should be turning a good golden-brown “fry color.” They are about done, but your tastes may vary, so feel free to take a fry out with the tongs and taste it (after letting it cool, of course). If it’s not crispy enough, keep them in for another minute. When they are done to your tastes, put them on a plate or bowl lined with paper towels, no need to pat dry, the oil will evaporate. Sprinkle liberally with salt.
What you will find out is the fries are not greasy, not oily, just crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside with a rich potato flavor, and you made them yourself. For about $2. I am something of a ketchup fiend, and these fries did not need ketchup. They’re so easy, even Suzie Robb could make these fries.
What do you serve them with? A BLT or club sandwich of course, this is Boobs Bacon Bourbon, not goddamn “Tofu R Us.” You want to impress a “cook-at-home” date? Fry up some potatoes, throw a flank steak on the grill, and make a green salad. You can’t lose.
When you are done with the oil, you can put it in a tupperware and re-use it one more time, just keep it in your fridge. Try to get any bits out of it, but there shouldn’t really be many. Don’t put the oil back in the bottle it came in, unless you used the entire bottle.