French Fries (Pommes Frites)
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Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
The keys to crisp French fries are drying the potatoes well, using fresh oil, maintaining the oil at a constant high temperature, not crowding the potatoes in the pan and never covering the pan. The traditional method calls for cooking the potatoes twice. The first immersion in oil cooks the centers of the fries and firms their exteriors. The second cooking makes the potatoes crisp and golden brown.
If you do not have a deep fryer, use a deep, heavy saucepan and long-handled tongs or a wire skimmer. You will also need a deep-fat frying thermometer if the fryer lacks a built-in thermostat or if you're using a saucepan.
While the following method recommends peeling the potatoes, you may prefer to leave the skins on for a more rustic presentation. Either way, they're delicious.
There are a number of ways to cut the potatoes: Use a mandoline, the French-fry attachment of a food processor, or a very sharp knife.
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- 2 lb. baking potatoes, each about 4 inches long
- Vegetable oil for deep-frying
- Sea salt, to taste
Directions:Peel the potatoes and cut them lengthwise into slices 3/8 inch thick. Then cut each slice lengthwise into strips 3/8 inch wide. Rinse the potatoes in three changes of cold water. Then place in a bowl filled with ice water and let stand for 5 minutes to remove excess starch.
Meanwhile, pour oil to a depth of 3 inches into a deep-fat fryer with a basket or into a deep, heavy pan. Heat to 325°F, checking the temperature on a built-in thermostat or a deep-fat frying thermometer. If you do not have a thermometer, drop in a piece of potato; the oil should immediately begin to foam along its edges.
While the oil is heating, line platters or trays with paper towels. Drain the potatoes and thoroughly dry them with kitchen towels. (Wet potatoes may stick together and will cause the oil to splatter.) If using a fryer, briefly immerse the basket in the hot oil to prevent the potatoes from sticking to it once they are added. Remove the basket from the oil, place 2 handfuls of the potatoes in the basket and lower into the oil. Alternatively, carefully lower them in the pan of oil using a skimmer or tongs. The oil will expand and cover the potatoes. Do not add too many potatoes at one time or they will not cook evenly. Fry until the potatoes are just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the basket and set it over a bowl to drain, then transfer the French fries to paper towel-lined trays or platters for at least 10 minutes or for up to 2 hours. If removing with a skimmer or tongs, place the French fries directly on lined trays.
Just before serving, line additional trays or platters with paper towels. Reheat the oil to 375°F and fry the potatoes again in batches until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove the basket and set it over a bowl to drain, then turn the French fries out onto the lined trays. Or remove with a skimmer, draining well over the pan, and transfer to lined trays.
Place in a serving bowl or basket, season with salt and serve immediately.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Potatoes, by Diane Rossen Worthington (Time-Life Books, 1993).