Phil's International Flair

Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair!

By the time you read this column I will be in Alaska on another fishing trip. I hope to bring back some new recipes and photographs as well. If I'm lucky, I'll even bring back some salmon and halibut. Wish me luck!

This month, I decided to write about French fries. Sure, you can buy them at Mickey D's or some other fast food place, but homemade fries are by far superior when prepared properly. So, how does one make good fries?

In my opinion, the first factor is the oil you use for cooking the fries. I prefer peanut oil because it has a high smoking point and adds a nice flavor to the fries. Of course you can use corn oil, vegetable oil, canola, lard or other types of cooking oil. Avoid olive oil for making fries.

The second factor is the choice of potato. Russets make perfectly good fries. However, I've also made good fries with white, red and Yukon potatoes by frying them at a slightly higher temperature. Soft, older russets make about the best fries in my opinion. Although you can make fries with other types of potatoes, the russet is probably the best. Don't be afraid to experiment however. Even sweet potatoes can be used and these can make an excellent garnish to a main course.

The third factor is how you cut the potato. You can cut shoestring type fries if you like them really crispy, or steak fries if you like them large. Or, you can cut them somewhere in between.

The fourth factor is the temperature of the oil. 375 degrees is ideal. Fry the potatoes in small quantities so you will not reduce the temperature of the oil. Too many potatoes in the oil will reduce the oil temperature and result in greasy fries. It's better to keep the outside of the fries crisp and the inside free from oil.

Now, on to the recipe! Be well, and good eating!

French Fries

First decide how you want to cut your fries and what you want to use them for besides eating. Personally, I like pencil thick fries when eating steak so I can use the fries to soak up juice from the steak. However, I also like fries that are crispy, so sometimes I will slice the potatoes thinner to serve with burgers.

Cut the potatoes lengthwise into pieces about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick or thicker if you prefer. Stack these slices three deep and slice again lengthwise to shape the fries. Alternately, you can use a mandolin or other type of slicer to cut the potatoes. A coarse grater can be used for really thin shoestring potatoes.

Cooking times will vary depending on the thickness of the potatoes. Shoestrings may take only a minute or two, but steak fries will take 5 to 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to gently stir and turn the fries during the cooking process for even cooking.

Every kids favorite! Who doesn't like fries? Fries go great with burgers, steaks, ribs, chicken, fish, and I could go on. I've seen teenagers dipping fries into a milkshake! Imagine that.

Fries are easy to make and very versatile, both as a food and as a garnish. Fries are an excellent accompaniment to fish, meat and fowl. It's hard to get more versatile than that.

  • 2 large russet potatoes, cut to preference
  • 1 quart oil for deep frying
  • Salt to taste or other seasonings

Here are some tips on making good fries:

Make sure the oil is hot, at least 375 degrees.

Here is my tip for testing the temperature of the oil if a thermometer is not available: As the oil begins to heat (smoking is too hot!), place one piece of potato into the oil. When that one French fry is done, the oil is hot enough to put in a small batch of fries. Be careful of splattering. Fry the potatoes until they turn a golden brown on the surface but not limp. Stir gently during the cooking process to assure that all surfaces are cooked evenly. Test one fry for doneness before removing the entire batch. Fry the potatoes in small batches for best results.

Now, after removing the fries from the oil, you should immediately place them on a paper lined plate or paper bag to drain any remaining oil and season them. Salt is the most common seasoning (I prefer sea salt), but you can try other seasonings for a gourmet touch. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Garlic salt
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Chile powder
  • Lemon pepper
  • Whatever seasoning you think tastes good

Alternately, serve fries with a preferred dip. Catsup is the most common dip, but Ranch or Bleu Cheese dressings are also good alternatives. A favorite BBQ sauce can also be used or a cheese sauce.

Don't neglect the fact that you can also slice the potatoes into disks before frying to make your own "potato chips" or "round fries". This shape is preferred if the intent is to use the fries for dipping or decorating a salad or casserole.

Be inventive and work some simple fries into your everyday meals for that gourmet look, flavor and touch. It's easy.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes