By Angela Denstad Stigeler
The official start to the grilling season and al fresco summer dining has finally arrived! And while we plant our gardens and await the farmer’s market stands full of fresh local produce that will later comprise the lion’s share of easy summer eating, we might be in need of a treat. Summer is not, after all, without its indulgences.
Aside from ice cream, the popular choices for summertime treats tend to be fried, as any state fair or boardwalk patron will attest. And, quite honestly, the burgers at all those backyard barbeques get a little lonely without their sidekick of fries. So, here’s a primer on how to make perfect, top-notch restaurant-quality French fries at home. As a bonus, if you take the time to make a big batch, you can have homemade frozen fries at-the-ready whenever the mood for grilling should strike.
Although this is not a quick method, it is easy, which is an important distinction. It can also be accomplished in stages, so no one step requires a long time commitment. So why not stash some perfectly cooked potatoes away in the freezer? Whether they later enhance grilled steak as pommes frites, make your burgers happy to have their fries, or if you just get a craving for them all on their own, these will be the best French-fried potatoes you have all summer.
Perfect French Fries
Russet, or other type of baking potatoes
canola oil for frying
Choose several baking potatoes of relatively consistent circumference. (If your potatoes are lumpy, or irregular in shape you’ll have more scraps.) Cut off the ends of each potato, then trim the sides, making a rectangle. Save the scraps for another use, if desired. Much of the peel will be removed by this process, but use a vegetable peeler to remove the rest as necessary. Cut the rectangles into evenly sized fries, about ¼ or ½-inch thick.
Place the potatoes into a large pot of cold, heavily salted water. Bring the kettle just up to a boil, watching closely. You’ll want to remove the fries just as the first large bubbles appear. The fries will be cooked, but still firm. Drain and run under cool water.
Spread the potatoes out onto a large cooling rack or rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate until all surfaces are thoroughly dry and a bit leathery. You can speed the drying process in a cool convection oven, if desired.
Fill a deep fryer to the recommended level of oil or use a large kettle with high sides. It should be large enough that the kettle is only half-filled by 1 ½ to 2 quarts of oil. You can fry in a smaller pan with less oil, but you’ll have to reduce the batch size accordingly. Heat the oil to 325 degrees. Fry the potatoes until a crust forms, but they should remain pale, up to 10 minutes.
Shake out the oil and place them onto a parchment-lined tray.
To eat them right away: Let rest at least 10 minutes and fry them again at 375 degrees until golden and crispy, just a few minutes more. Drain, sprinkle with salt and enjoy.
To freeze them for later: Place the tray of once-fried potatoes in the freezer until frozen solid, then remove the fries to a storage bag or container. When you want to serve them, bake at 425 degrees in a single layer for 25-30 minutes, or until golden, turning as necessary. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot.