Saturday, January 9, 2010

I want fries with that.

I have been hearing the praises of the "Care and Share" shop for quite some time. My parents love the place, and other friends visit often, too. I've been wanting to go there for quite some time. Today, my parents showed us where it is, and it lives up to its billing. What a fantastic place! I bought a Calphalon nonstick skillet, 13 inches, for $20. Brand new! I also got a plastic bag of rick rack, a hat, some pajama pants, two slips, and a small, 1 1/2 quart deep fryer.

French Fries for dinner! I have a humongous bag of beautiful potatoes from Costco, and two of them, fried up, would make a dinner for two, with a salad, I thought.

The last time I made french fries at home, I was 21 years old and in college. A bunch of us had come home late on a Saturday night (I guess it was really Sunday morning, to be technical), and I remember that I used my electric skillet, on a whim, to make fries. There were at least 10 of us in that kitchen, and I think we ate 10 pounds of potatoes. We kept frying and eating and frying and eating. I think we just cut the potatoes, and put them in hot oil. Did not think too much about it at the time. But then again, I don't think we were a discerning bunch.

So, tonight I consulted Mark Bittman's book on how to cook things, to find out how I should make french fries. Mark and Julia Child (and probably everyone who knows anything about cooking) say that you should peel the potato, then cut the fries, and soak them in cold water. During this time, the oil is heating up in the fryer. Both Mark and Julia say to drain the water from the potato, then fry the potatoes in 325 degree oil (or so), for about 10 minutes. They will be limp at that point, and still not brown. Take them out, drain the fries, let them rest, then put them in at a higher temp - 375 degrees, for a few more minutes, until they're brown.

So, I cut the potatoes, and made the sticks shorter, so they'd fit easily into my little fry basket. I soaked the potatoes in ice water, to get the starch off the surface. I put peanut oil into my fryer. I chose peanut oil because I know it tolerates high temperatures without breaking down, and I plan to re-use the oil after I'm done with it. I will filter it when it's cool, then store it.

One of my jobs during school was in a restaurant where they served a lot of fries. Every night, the fryer got drained, and the oil was filtered, then every week (I think Sunday night) the oil was thrown out and replaced. So that's how I know the 'basics' about deep-frying and oil, even though I have not deep fryed at home since I was 21.

After draining the water off, I lowered the fries into the hot oil using my basket. I ended up just frying the fries in one step, for about 13 minutes at 350 degrees. They turned out yummy, so I'm not complaining...but they were a bit soggy after a few minutes out of the oil. So next time I think I'll try it the Mark and Julia way and do them at a lower temp for a while, then let them rest, then finish them up in high heat.

For kicks, I cut a few potato chips and fried them up too. Not bad! A little thick, but next time I'll cut them thinner to get that perfect crispiness.

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