Last night, I ran to the supermarket to pick up some quick items. In line, just ahead of me, was a young man buying 2 bags of Ore Ida frozen french fries and ice cream. I wanted to tell him that he could save gobs of money by making his own fries, but I didn’t. Let’s do the math. He paid $3.50 per 32 oz. bag. That’s $0.11 per ounce.
Whole raw russet potatoes are $0.59 per pound or less than $0.04 per ounce ($0.036875 to be exact). That’s less than half the price. You may be wondering what about oil and salt. Vegetable oil (corn, peanut, or blend) is approximately $0.05 per ounce. Most likely you can reuse most of this oil, as your fries shouldn’t dirty the oil much.
So, what to do with the potatoes to make fries?
Step 1: First, wash your potatoes. Then cut them into fries. Be sure to make them all approximately the same size and shape. This step is critical, as you want them to cook uniformly. Larger pieces will take longer to cook than ones that are smaller, so if you have small slivers from ends, consider discarding them.
Step 2: After you have the uniformly cut pieces, you must wash them. Wash them in cold water either by running them under the tap or repeatedly submerging them. Wash them well, as you must wash the excess starch from the outside of the pieces. This will ensure that your fries are crisp and light in color.
Step 3: Dry your pieces! Use a kitchen towel. No need to waste a multiple paper towels. Drying ensures crispness, minimizes splattering from water being introduced to oil, and maximizes your ability to use the oil for the next time you have need to get your fry fix.
Step 4: Oil blanching. Blanching allows the inside of your fries to be cooked and tender. Add oil to a large pot, enough to cover your fries while leaving at least half of the pot empty. This ensures than when fries are added you will not overflow the pot. This should be done over medium low heat. Your oil should not be very hot. This step is not like traditional frying, there should be just a few bubbles coming from the fries once added. I usually turn off the flame when adding the fries; to ensure that oil splatter doesn’t create a fire.
SAFETY: When cooking with oil please remember the following,
1. Cover yourself. Don’t cook in the nude (not that you would) and don’t wear large loose sleeves, as they may be a hazard.
2. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. This is just a precaution, but if you turn off the flame when adding the fries you should be pretty safe. If you don’t have an extinguisher have plenty of flour or baking soda and a lid for the pot. DO NOT USE WATER ON A GREASE FIRE!!!!
Step 5: Keeping the flame on medium low, wait for your fries to float. This is your signal the inside of your potatoes are cooked. If you have kept you flame low, there should be very little browning.
Step 6: Remove the floaters from the oil and let them drain and cool. I use a stainless steel colander with a pie pan below. Once the oil drains into the pie pan, I add it back to the pot.
Step 7: Heat your oil until hot, not smoking. You can test if the oil is hot enough by placing one fry and seeing how fast it bubbles. This time you’re looking for real frying action. Once sufficiently hot, shut off your flame and add the whole batch of oil-blanched fries. Turn the flame back up. The fries are technically cooked, but now you’re going for the crisp outside. Cook the fries until, when you touch them with your slotted spoon, they “feel” hard on the outside.
Step 8: Line the colander with paper towels. Remove the crisp fries to the lined colander and immediately season (to ensure the seasoning sticks). Give a shake to ensure coverage. Salt is fine. Salt and pepper is better. Or, try this seasoning blend.
1 t Salt
½ t Pepper
½ t Onion powder
1 t Chili powder
That’s it. Enjoy!
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