Potatoes, oil, salt and pepper. That’s all you need to get yummy and crispy home-made French fries. You don’t have to have a Fry Daddy or submerge the potatoes in a lot of oil either. Surprisingly the technique for great home-made oven fries is really easy and you only need a little oil (less than a teaspoon per serving!) There are just four simple details to remember:
1. Choose the right spuds. There are two main types of potatoes, waxy and floury. Waxy are the thin-skinned varieties that include White, Chef, Red Bliss and Yukon Gold. These potatoes are typified by their thin, smooth skin and creamy texture. These potatoes really lend themselves nicely to moist heat cooking methods, such as boiling and steaming as for stew or for mashed potatoes. The other type is the floury potato, the Russet or Idaho fall into this category. These have a rough and thicker skin and a light fluffy starchy interior, perfect for baking, roasting and other dry heat methods. Because the temperature gets above 212 degrees F, frying is considered a dry heat method too. So, oven fries means Russets.
2. Cut them into 1/3 to ½-inch batons (or fries.) Or they won’t cook correctly. You’ll end up with bitter burnt fries with raw centers, or worse they could be limp. Eeek!
3. Russets like a nice hot bath before they go in the oven. The boiling water helps wash off the starch which tends to stick to the pan. The boiling water raises the temperature of the fries too, which speeds the baking process. [note: I was first turned on to a variation of this trick by Cooks Illustrated. Backintheday when I had time (before kids) I used to read Cooks cover to cover. Sigh.]
4. Spread them out over the baking sheet in one layer and bake on the bottom rack of the oven. This will give you a golden crust on the bottom of each fry. Then all you have to do is turn them occasionally with a spatula to brown them all over.
Golden Oven Fries
Makes 4 servings, 2.5 ounces each, about 1 cup. Active Time:10 minutes. Total Time: 40 minutes.
2 large Russet potatoes, about 1 ½ pound
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt (see ingredient note*)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Put a kettle on to boil. Arrange oven rack in bottom most position of the oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with paper towels.
2. Meanwhile, cut potatoes into batons/French fries, about 1/3 to ½-inch thick. Place in a large bowl.
3. When water boils, pour over the potatoes and let sit 3 minutes. Drain thoroughly and spread over the towel-lined baking sheet. Blot with more towels. Dry the bowl and return the potatoes to it. Add salt and pepper and toss until the potatoes are completely coated. Discard paper towels and dry baking sheet if necessary. Coat the baking sheet with cooking spray. Spread the potatoes out in an even layer on the baking sheet.
4. Bake on the bottom rack until golden on the bottom, 12 to 15 minutes. Turn over with a spatula and continue baking until golden and cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes longer, stirring one more time.
Ingredient note* If you don’t have kosher salt note that kosher salt has less sodium per teaspoon than table salt. Unless you want crazy salty fries, substitute about ¼ to ½ teaspoon table salt for the kosher.
Quick Tarragon Aioli
Makes 4 servings, 1 tablespoon each. Active time 5 minutes. Total time: 5 minutes.
Stir together these kitchen staples for an instant Bistro-style aioli dip for your frites. I like Hellmann’s Low Fat or their Cholesterol Free Canola Mayo.
¼ cup mayonnaise, preferably reduced calorie
½ teaspoon dry tarragon
1/8 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Stir mayonnaise, tarragon, garlic powder, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.