French Fries at Home

10 Aug

Oh my, I love a good french fry.

When all the elements come together — perfect size (thicker than a pencil), perfect texture (crisp outside, tender inside) and salt — there are few things I enjoy more. Particularly with a wonderful homemade aioli on the side. (Yeah, I left ketchup behind a while ago. But feel free… )

I never make fries at home, however, because it is too much of a pain and too much of a mess. Additionally, as good as a home fry might occasionally be, they never match a fry from a restaurant, given restaurants have the equipment to make amazing fries. 

Well, no longer. 

fries vertical

french fries at home

I’ve written before about an amazing chef, food writer and cookbook author I had the great pleasure to come to know, Patricia Wells. Her cookbook At Home In Provence truly changed my life, an experience you can read about here.

In her latest cookbook, My Master Recipes, she details a method of making fries at home that is very simple and doesn’t involve throwing fries into a pot of hot boiling oil. You actually start the fries in room temperature oil on the stove, so the mess is reduced almost entirely.

The result?

The best possible fries imaginable, and not just at home. They rival any fry I’ve had in my favorite ‘french fry restaurants’ all over the country. 

Steak and fries

mmm steak and fries

 

I’ve tried her technique many times now to make sure they really work. (Just taking one for the team, you know, just the kind of fellow I am.) Except for the first time, when I used too many fries and they fell apart, these fries have come out perfectly every single time. Even that first time they tasted amazing; they just were barely an inch long.

I am linking to a more detailed recipe here, which you may want to use as reference, at least your first time. A quicker reminder recipe, for those who have tried it, is below. But, honestly, even if you just use the below recipe, these really are easy and you are still going to have some killer fries! Just make sure you do the measurements right.

You’ll be stunned how easy it is, how the timing works just right every time… and of course, by how wonderful are these fries!

PATRICIA WELLS’ “COLD FRY” FRITES

(see more photos and notes at the very bottom)

Ingredients

(see below for different amounts)

  • 2 pounds (about 4 large) russet potatoes
  • 2 1/2 quarts vegetable oil, such as sunflower oil, at room temperature
  • Fine sea salt

Instructions

  • Peel the potatoes and rinse. Cut them into your favorite size. (For best results, think McDonald’s size or a little thicker. Don’t worry too much about them being identical… and use all the fries, even the little bits, which are marvelous.

 

  • Soak the fries in a bowl of cold water for five minutes, exchanging the water twice during the five minutes. Shake the fries up in the water each time. The water will initially be cloudy. By the time you are finished, the water should be clear. 

 

  • Drain them and wrap them in single layers in kitchen towels. I like to spread a smooth rectangular towel along the counter horizontally, lay the fries straight up and down so one end faces the edge of the counter, then start at one end of the towel and roll it up tight. I’ve let them sit two hours before I fried.

 

  • Combine the oil and the potatoes in a large dutch oven. Do not cover. The oil should be two inches below the top to avoid splattering. Note: I use my 7 quart pot because I use 3 lbs of potatoes – more fries! –  but for 2 lbs a 5 quart pot will work. Just make sure it is not aluminum. Heavy duty is what you need here.

 

  • Set the heat to high. Stir the potatoes occasionally to prevent sticking, to the bottom and each other. 

 

  • The oil should move to a boil in about 9 minutes. When the oil comes to a boil, set a timer for 17 minutes. Stir very gently every 3 to 4 minutes to prevent sticking. 

 

  • When the timer rings, the fries should be taking on color. You still have 4 or 5 minutes to go. Watch them, stirring gently and when they are a deep golden brown,  try one to get to the crispness you want. They should not be soggy at all… if so, go a minute longer and try again.

 

  • Drain on paper towels and salt to your delight!
Plates of fries

PLATES OF FRIES!

  • FROM HER COOKBOOK:
  • We have made these fries in varied quantities with proportionate quantities of oil and pot size:
    1 pound (500 g) potatoes/1 1/2 quarts (1.5 l) oil/4-quart (4 l) pot
    2 pounds (1 kg) potatoes/2 1/2 quarts (2.5 l) oil/5- to 7-quart (5 to 7 l) pot
    3 pounds (1.5 kg) potatoes/3 quarts (3 l) oil/7-quart (7 l) pot
    4 pounds (2 kg) potatoes/4 quarts (4 l) oil/8- to 9-quart (8 to 9 l) pot
  • After frying, let the oil cool and strain it through cheesecloth into the original containers. Store in the refrigerator and reuse up to five times. Mark the bottles as to number of uses and sniff the oil before reusing; if there is any scent of rancidity, toss. Each time the oil is reused, add about 1 cup (250 ml) fresh, new oil to the mix.

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An Easy Fruit Crisp

13 Jul

AND A GLUTEN-FREE VERSION, TOO!

Berry Crisp

Fruit Crisp

If you are anything like me, you love fruit pie but have no patience to make crust. You lost me at rolling pin. You lost me at ‘sift’. You lost me at…

So I’m happy to present to you something just as good as a fruit pie but ridiculously easy. You don’t even have to be that precise, which is a miracle in baking. Seriously… I once started this during dinner, for people who asked for it (people have started to ask for it a lot) so I got up and prepped it, which takes about 10 minutes max. Mind you, I’d had a martini or three so I did it from memory and was pretty damn imprecise with my measuring, throwing this here, tossing this there. And it was still just as wonderful. 

It’s terrific with peaches, which are fresh right now. But I love it even more with mixed berries: blueberries, blackberries and raspberries combined. Or just one of those, if you have a favorite. Or mix in peaches, too, with all the berries. (Don’t peel the peaches, no need for that… see? Easy!)

As noted in the recipe below, if you need gluten free, just substitute Almond Flour for the regular flour. The consistency is a little different but it tastes terrific. I often do it with almond flour anyway because I love the flavor of almonds so much. 

GlutenFree crisp

Gluten-free version made with almond flour

For the recipe,  Continue reading

Your dream breakfast is here

25 May

Expletives were heard the last time I served this. The phrase ‘your new crack‘ as well. And while it is a breakfast dish, you can have it any time of day. I certainly do. It’s a killer late night dish, for instance, after an extra long day at work or, well, whatever you’ve been doing late night.

I give you my Skillet Chilaquiles, a bastardized, easy version of the traditional Mexican breakfast. 

Skillet Chilaquiles2

Skillet Chilaquiles

True chilaquiles are tortillas sautéed in a spicy red or green sauce, often with shredded chicken mixed in. Fried eggs sometimes are served on top. Given my obsession with eggs, it’s no wonder I devised this version over the years using eggs as the actual sauce. What you end up with are tortillas, still a bit crispy, coasted with a luscious sheen of eggs, cheese and chilis. 

Try it once and, like me, you will start keeping all the ingredients on hand.

Chilaquiles ingredients

Ingredients for Skillet Chilaquiles

SKILLET CHILAQUILES  Continue reading

Cauliflower Pizza Crust ? A MUST TRY

11 May
Pizza Ingredients

Ingredients for Pepperoni Pizza with a cauliflower pizza crust

With Gluten-Free/Paleo/Ketogenic interest remaining at a fever pitch, it seems everyone is looking for terrific recipes with low/no carbs and no gluten. I myself am following the Ketogenic Diet; the older I get the more difficult it has become to lose weight and keep it off, damn it! (That gin has no carbs is a lifesaver.) But even if you couldn’t care less about avoiding gluten, today’s recipe — homemade pizza with a homemade cauliflower crust — is a mind-blowing must try. I’ll say ‘damn it’ one more time because this pizza is so damn good.

Pizza!

Pepperoni Pizza with a cauliflower crust

I owe this stunner to my wonderful friend Jeff, an amazing chef who constantly teaches me about cooking. He stumbled onto the recipe, perfected it and encouraged me to give it a try. Jeff and his husband Owen, btw, are in the ‘could care less’ about avoiding gluten camp. In fact, they eat more gluten than any people I’ve ever met… and yet both are annoyingly super slender. I’ll say “damn it” one more time in envy. Fortunately I love them too much to stay very annoyed. 

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Winter Greens Lasagna

11 Mar
Lasagna

Winter Greens Lasagna

Everyone loves lasagna yet I know great cooks who won’t bother to make it at home, myself included for a long while, because it seemed too much work. 

Not true, not true!

I’ve learned over the past few years lasagna can be pretty damn easy to make, particularly when someone reveals to you, as my great friend and great cook Tiffiny told me, that you don’t have to boil the lasagna noodles. That blew my mind, given the one time I tried to boil the noodles, then layer them, was a nightmare of near biblical proportions.  I never got that tray of lasagna into the oven and I never tried again until Tiff told me, no you don’t have to do that. Just layer them into the lasagna out of the box.  Genius.

Ultimately, lasagna is simply layers of flavors you stuff in the oven and bake. Yes, the layers themselves determine how good it will be and you want to make sure it isn’t too dry. But particularly with some quality store bought ingredients, you can prep and layer a terrific homemade lasagna in 30 minutes or less. Lasagna also sits beautifully so you can prep it on a Sunday, have it ready to shove in the oven when you get home Monday and then have wonderful leftovers all week. 

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The Horror of “Get Out”

23 Feb

A week away from the Oscars means a rumination on a nominated movie is a great idea. A good friend and writing mentor, Jeff Meyers, has a take on “Get Out” I find extremely thought provoking and fascinating, so much so I asked him to let me post his ideas here. Whether you liked the movie or not (I realize as much as it invigorates many of us it befuddles others) , I think you will find his essay worthy of consideration and discussion.

It’s no secret that, historically, horror has been regarded as junk entertainment, a genre that relies on cheap thrills and lurid subject matter to draw audiences. And while critics have been willing to extoll the technical and cinematic achievements of the genre, they typically overlook the thematic, intellectual, and emotional resonance of the genre.

The well-deserved nomination of Get Out for this year’s Best Picture Academy Award is only the sixth time a horror film has been considered for such an honor. The first, 1973’s The Exorcist came 45 years after the Oscars were first introduced. Since then, only The Sixth Sense, Black Swan, Pan’s Labyrinth (Best Foreign Language Oscar) and Silence Of The Lambs (the only one to win… and regarded, by some, to be a thriller rather than horror), have been given such regard. Classics like King Kong, Bride Of Frankenstein, Psycho, Alien and The Shining were all, notably, overlooked.

Exorcist small

This dismissal of horror as a serious-minded expression of cinematic art and opinion has such a long and pervasive history that even some its own practitioners feel a need to distance themselves from the label, lest they be devalued as artists. 

In the introduction to The Walking Dead graphic novel, creator Robert Kirkman insisted that his goal was not to scare anyone, and that he wasn’t writing horror but rather “social commentary and character.” Writer-director Jordan Peele asserted that Get Out is not a horror film but rather a “social thriller.” 

With all due respect, Kirkman and Peele are wrong. While genre labels are often fluid and inexact, there is little doubt that a graphic novel that involves hordes of flesh-eating zombies, and a movie about a mad scientist that cuts out the brains of his victims in order to replace them with someone else’s brain qualify as horror. The rejection of the label is undoubtedly the result of those long standing dismissals of the genre. 

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Spicy “Get Well” Chicken Soup

5 Feb

I’ve been sick for a month and I never get sick. Apparently the whole world is feeling it. For me, every time it seems over, with my defenses down a different bug comes barreling in and takes over. Plus, try as I might when I don’t feel well, I don’t eat well. Comfort food city, you know?

But I hit a wall this weekend: “I’ve had enough of this $@#%~!” 

So I created a spicy chicken soup designed to shock my system with fresh, healthy and spicy ingredients, something I could detox on all week. 

Spicy Get Well Soup

Turns out, though, it also happened to end up one of the best soups I’ve ever made. This is light, fresh and incredibly healthy soup with a spicy kick.  But you don’t have to have the flu to love this soup. I’m even having it for breakfast. It’s that good. 

If you do have the flu, an appetizer of my garlic salad and a bowl of this chicken soup will have you well on the way to recovery. After a weekend of eating both, I seriously feel 100 times better.

And so I present to you: 

TOM’S SPICY “GET WELL” CHICKEN SOUP

This is a great “throw a bunch of stuff in a pot without worrying too much about the amounts and it still comes out amazing” kind of recipe. You could easily vary the ingredients and it will turn out well. But use the specific ingredients noted here the first time you make it to get the genius. Then you can start messing with it.

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