True or false: Making restaurant-quality french fries at home takes more effort than it's worth.
True or false: The oil should be good and hot before submerging the potatoes or they won't get crispy.
The way to "Easier French Fries" in the August issue of Cook's Illustrated Magazine seems to defy logic, but its unorthodox technique works: Starting the potatoes in "cold oil," i.e., room temperature, produces great fries. They've got snap and aren't greasy. Fewer steps are needed.
And the icing on the fry? They absorb one-third less fat.
Editor Matthew Card set out to make "crisp, slender fries with a tender interior and earthy potato flavor" but didn't want to go through the time-eating, messy business of rinsing, soaking and double-frying.
Card went through more than 50 pounds of potatoes on his quest, which included experimenting with oven fries.
Then he learned about a little-known, cold-oil method attributed to French chef Joel Robuchon. The potatoes are submerged in room temperature oil versus hot grease and fried over high heat until browned. And no rinsing and soaking required.
Card was surprised after the first batch turned out so well. "The method does contradict everything I'd ever been taught about making perfect fries."
Fresh from the pot, "I think they can hold their own against most any fries, especially considering how easy they are," Card wrote in an e-mail. "I doubt I'll ever go through the rigmarole required of classic fries again."
While russet potatoes are traditional for french fries, Card found their starchy character less than ideal for the longer, cold-oil frying time. Yukon Golds, with more moisture and a waxy texture, proved to be a better alternative.
However, Card at first was challenged by the fragile Yukons sticking to the bottom of the pot. He found that if he didn't stir the potatoes for the first 15-20 minutes of cooking, they formed enough of a crust that stirring wasn't a problem.
Easier French Fries
2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 6 medium), scrubbed, dried, sides squared off, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch by 1/4-inch batons
6 cups peanut oil
1/4 cup bacon fat, strained (optional)
Note: Flavoring the oil with bacon fat (optional) gives the fries a mild meaty flavor. We prefer peanut oil for frying, but vegetable oil or canola oil can be substituted. This recipe will not work with sweet potatoes or russets.
Combine potatoes, oil and bacon fat (if using) in large Dutch oven. Cook over high heat until oil has reached rolling boil, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, without stirring, until potatoes are limp but exteriors are beginning to firm, about 15 minutes.
Using tongs, stir potatoes, gently scraping up any that stick, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, 5-10 minutes longer.
Using skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer fries to thick paper bags or paper towels.
Season with salt and serve immediately.