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.
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 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.
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!
For the recipe,
PATRICIA WELLS’ “COLD FRY” FRITES
(see more photos and notes at the very bottom)
(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
- 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!
- 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.
4 thoughts on “French Fries at Home”
My husband does it somewhat different, but that’s because we already have fried halibut ready for serving.
He puts fries in cold oil, turns up heat to high temp, cook until fries are limp. Take out and set aside. That’s when we fry breaded halibut. Then refry fries in same oil at 385 degree till crispy, usually around 5 minutes or so.
I hand cut the russet potatoes because I like them thin cut.
Joyce, very cool! I would imagine that gives the fries a good flavor too!
These look scrumptious! In NYC, saw Springsteen and am at a First Things Intellectual Retreat (yeah, yeah I know I’m out of place) and loving it. I’m waiting for some good film recs from you, man. Then I’ll have something to watch while I eat my french fries!
hey! Springsteen! So cool! If you like musicals, the revival of MY FAIR LADY is glorious. I will send you my best of film list!