Happy 2016, Friends! I hope you all had a fabulous holiday and that your year is off to a happy start. I took a bit of time off from the Wisch List over the holidays to relax into the changes that have been taking place, over here. With a new city, new professional opportunities and a baby on the way there’s been a lot to contemplate and be grateful for in wrapping up 2015.
But off and running we are and, like everyone, I’ve kicked it off by setting some intentions for the year ahead. One of them revolves around vegetables. It goes something like this: just eat ’em. So green smoothies are happening on the daily and most of our mains are “plant-based”. After just a week of cleaning things up I feel like a million bucks. And here’s a little secret – if you want to make a big salad for dinner more interesting, serve it next to a heaping pile of piping hot, crispy french fries (insert choir of angels singing, here).
When it comes to french fries, my purist sensibilities are tempted to let them be. I mean, french fries are delicious because they’re fried. One might argue that I should leave delicious and artery clogging, well-enough alone. However, my clean eating consciousness and nosiness in the kitchen have moved me to find the healthiest path to the same result. What I’ve come to is this: crispy, baked fries are completely possible.
There is just a bit of science involved. The effect that frying affords a french fry is an instant crisp that preserves a tender inside. Because of the high temperature of the oil and the air that circulates while frying, this can be done with any size of cut of the potato. Thick or thin, they cook perfectly, very quickly. When baking, you have less control. You need the temp of your oven high enough to create crispiness but the entire potato is cooking at nearly the same speed so it’s more difficult to control the contrast in texture. This means that if the oven temp is high and the fries are cut too thin then you have a burnt or chewy piece of potato. If they’re too too thick then they feel more like pieces of baked potato that are crisp in some spots and soggy in others.
So, after some research, trial and error I’ve found that the following to be the most important variables in accomplishing the crispy, baked fry:
– The potatoes should be cut into fries that are 1/4″ squared in thickness, not smaller and not much bigger. This size provides enough area within each fry to become both crispy and soft on the inside.
– Removing some of the starch from the potatoes makes for crunchier fries (this is done by soaking them, see recipe below).
– The surface they’re baking on should be completely non-stick.
– It’s important not to crowd them on the baking sheet so that air can circulate between them.
– They should be first baked at high heat and then baked one final time at even higher heat.
So, cheers to the year ahead. May it be full of twist, turns, healthy salads…and lots of crispy fries.
- 3 medium russet potatoes
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. salt plus more to taste
- Peel potatoes and cut into fries that are ¼", square in thickness (it's important not to make them too thin).
- Add the fries to a large bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for at least 45 minutes and as long as overnight.
- Preheat oven to 425°.
- Drain the fries and dry thoroughly with a paper towels.
- In a bowl combine the potatoes with the olive oil and 1 tsp of salt. Toss to coat evenly.
- Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with non-stick spray (I use coconut oil spray).
- Distribute the fries evenly on the cookie sheet allowing space between each.
- Bake for 20 minutes and then flip the fries, redistributing again to allow space between each.
- Return pan to the oven rotating position and bake for another 10 minutes.
- Remove and flip once again.
- Increase the temperature to 475° and bake a final time for another 10-15 minutes (watching closely to monitor.
- Remove from the oven when the fries are golden brown and the ends are darker, close to burning.
- Salt again to taste and enjoy immediately.