Fry, The Beloved Crunchy

Behold the starchy finger of the one that is set before you.

May you bask in its glory during its final seasoning, before being devoured in small blissful mouthfuls.

May the condiments be salty, sweet, tangy, fresh, and plentiful.

May the crisp outside and mealy inside fill you with joy, contentment, and satiation.

The french fried potato. Pomme frite. The Chip. The Fry.
Whatever name you refer to them by, they are by far one of the most popular foods to travel across the pond and back again. And again. And again. And just for the record, they're called French fries because the potatoes are 'frenched'—cut into lengthwise strips. Julienne, batonnet, and pont neuf are his cousins.

One of my favorite books, Culinary Artistry by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, has a section where top chefs from all over the US are asked "If you were stranded on a desert island..." what 10 ingredients and 3 cooking methods could they not live without. Most say items like tomatoes, garlic, onions, and some type of protein like chicken or pork. The cooking methods vary. The top two methods: braising and roasting. No one says deep frying. No one requests oil as an ingredient they could not live without. Every time I turn to this section, I can't help but think how I couldn't live without deep frying. I'm pretty much a healthy eater. Fruit and fresh vegetables are as decadent to me as a marbled steak or crème brulée. But not having access to a cast iron skillet or dutch oven filled with fresh oil scares me. It must be my Southern upbringing. Needless to say, this week, I embarked on a deep-fritte adventure.
The method recommended by most cookbooks, is to cook french fries in two stages: first at a temperature at around 350 degrees F, until the fries are nearly cooked but limp and pale. After they have been removed from the oil and allowed to cool, the oil should be set at 375 degrees F and the fries are fried again until they are golden and crisp, which normally takes less than a minute.

What makes this phenomenon possible is pure science. Ok, its really applied science, but we're not discussing semantics here. So, the moisture in the potato repels the oil. The hot oil heats the water in the potato, technically steaming it from the inside out. I learned most of this from Alton Brown but definitely from How To Read A French Fry by Russ Parsons.

Peanut oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, Crisco (woo!), light olive oil, and even duck fat (as per Hot Dougs in Chicago) are acceptable fats in which to deep fry your potatoes.

Seasoning with salt, pepper, or other spice should happen at this stage. When optimum controlled temperature is reached, there is only a 10% fat transfer of oil to a food. When you're frying a vegetable with virtually no fat or calories, 10% is a lot.

Potatoes are hard. Potatoes are rough. They can be slippery little fellows. They also have eyes. According to Playskool, sometimes they have ears, shoes, and a wife. There are multiple methods and devices (this one is good; but this one is much better) available to cut your pommes de terre. Just make sure that whatever device or method you use, it is sturdy, safe, and easy to clean. Potato starch lingering on a kitchen utensil. Not so great. Potato starch thickening up a soup or sauce. Naught is greater.

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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

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  1. I just love your writing style!
    Please send fries... ;)


  2. Oh thank you so much, Vicci! I'm especially proud of this post! Thank you for noticing. I honestly appreciate it.

  3. Hi nicolette, thanks for adding me as friend on FoodBuzz! I do like your writing style too, especially on this french fry post. We love potatoes, especially fried, but we don't do it often enough :) we've been oven roasting them instead.

  4. Man I love fries and these look so good! I am making the sweet potato variety this evening - baked in the oven! Can't wait!

    Love the witty title too! ;)

  5. Nikki,
    My husband makes all our fries from scratch. I'm going to share your double-dip strategy with him!

  6. Jmom: I'm glad you enjoyed my post :-) Everyone seems to be roasting these days, transfats being enemies of the state and everything...

    Jenn: I love fries too. One of the ultimate comfort foods. I love sweet potato fries the best. I'm all sweet potatoed out from making entries for the NC Sweet Potato contest!

    Hendersonville: I'm glad you stopped by! Please, share the wealth. No soggy fries for you!

  7. You definitely do have a good writing style! I need to get a heavy pot to do some frying, I agree that I'd need oil when stranded too!


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