Wednesday, May 5, 2010

You Say Potato

The other day, while chatting with my friend Jeff, he happened to mention the big basket of chips he was currently eating for dinner. "Fries?" I asked, seeking some confirmation which could allow me to conjure up the proper visual as, in addition to countless global chat discussions, my recent travels have taught me that the (sometimes) translation of fries into chips and chips into crisps can make a mind bending task of correctly determining the subjective potato. "Fries," he said, confirming my assumption and immediately triggering a Pavlovian like response. He continued to type with his fry fiending fingers, teasing my tummy as he described his homemade andalouse dipping sauce. "Andalouse?" I asked. "Andalouse," he said, quickly spelling out the mix of ingredients, "it's Belgian."  I've heard great things about Belgians and their fries; now I was drooling AND curious.

The bonus part of the whole conversation is that Jeff lives in Australia. This means his dinner plate was on the table long before I had even considered what I would be making for mine. Inspired, I wiped my chin, typed a quick brb and disappeared into the kitchen to prepare my potatoes.

Expletively Delicious Oven Fries

There are a million ways that you can make fries, and everyone has their method. This is mine. First, find your potatoes and scrub them well. If you prefer them without skins you can peel them; I suggest leaving them on. Slice them to your desired thickness, place in a bowl and cover them with cold water; let them soak for at least 30 minutes. Soaking will remove starch and sugars, helping to make your oven fries beautifully crisped.

potatoes scrubbed and sliced

potatoes soaking in cold water

After their cold water bath, drain the potatoes using a strainer, running a bit of fresh cold water over them to remove any excess starch and floaty bits. Let them rest in the strainer while you dry their bathtub bowl with a towel to remove any lingering liquid. Do not put the potatoes back in the bowl (yet).

Pour a little bit of extra virgin olive oil in the bowl. The amount of oil you use will depend on how many potatoes you have sliced. Less oil is more effective; you want enough to very lightly coat the potato slices, not drown them. Now add any spices and herbs that you'd like to the oil. I use a tiny amount of garlic powder, pepper, paprika and Vegeta now and salt them later.

extra virgin olive oil | garlic powder | pepper | paprika | vegeta

Place a clean, dry towel, folded to double thickness, on your counter. Place your potato wedges on one half of the towel and fold the other side over to cover them, pressing down on the towel to pat the potatoes dry. If you are making a large batch, repeat this step a few times rather than trying to dry all of your potatoes at once. The key is to remove as much extra moisture as possible.

drying the potatoes

As you dry your potato slices, place them back in the bowl and toss them gently with the spiced oil to coat. I find that adding the slices a few at a time, rather than dumping them all in to the bowl at once, is much more effective. Add and stir. Add and stir. Repeat until your potato slices are well coated. Arrange your potatoes in a single layer, skin side down, on a very lightly oiled shallow baking tray.

potatoes tossed with oil and spices

single layer of potato slices on baking tray

Here is the part where we all need to make some decisions. As my faithful readers already know, my oven is either 'on' or 'off' and preheating results in a very high cooking temperature. While high temperature is necessary for achieving the crispy outsides; unfortunately, for me, the fries would be charred beyond edible on the outside with soggy, half baked middles. This being said, the following method works well for me; though you may opt to cook in a preheated oven.

I place the potatoes in the gas oven and then turn it 'on'. This allows the insides to bake slowly to a beautiful fluffiness. After about 20 minutes, I flip the slices to skin sides up, return them to the oven for the final crisping stage and, keeping an eye on the oven, remove them when they "look good" - for me that's golden (about 15 minutes later). Immediately sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Preheated or not, as soon as you put your potatoes in the oven, it is time to make the sauce. The not-so-bonus part of Jeff living in Australia is that, by the time I reached this stage, he was already in bed and I had long since closed our chat window. Left to fend for myself, I incorrectly Google searched andelousse and landed an ingredient list that sounded close enough to his version (plus I had most of the list on hand). You can correctly search for andalouse... or you can just do what I did: mix a couple good spoonfuls of mayonnaise together with some finely minced onion, a good dose of tomato paste, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, some salt, white pepper and paprika and leave it to stand while the flavours develop. It probably wasn't andalouse, but it was definitely divine for dipping.

dipping sauce

You can call them fries or you can call them chips. You can call them crisps, wedges, pommes or whatever else you'd like. Myself? I dip, dip, dip and call them expletively delicious.

expletively delicious oven fries

What's your best method for cooking oven fries? What's your dip? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion @ The Perfect Avocado on facebook.


Rebecca said...

It's allllll about the dipping! Mmmmmmmmm.

Have I told you that we love making oven baked sweet potato fries? I know, I know, me and sweet potatoes ... but like this they are YUMMY. We've never made it, but I always want to make them with a maple dipping sauce.

pollysplayground said...

I love how I've been making sweet potato fries for YEARS and nobody wanted to eat them - now they are on every menu I see.

I still can't believe you even eat them. You wouldn't even swallow one bite as a kid. I'll share my recipe when I can get my hands on some reasonably priced sweet potatoes - I've seen them once here in the produce 'exotic foods' section - they look extremely sad - and were far too expensive. Maple dip sounds terrific - but not "right" for my recipe - we'll have to swap.

Ellen Kinsel said...

Your "bakes" (not fries) look delicious! Mine rarely turn out as crisp as I want them. I am going to try your cold water bath method to see if that improves that aspect. Not sure about dipping sauces...I don't even put ketchup on them anymore.

pollysplayground said...

the bath really makes the difference... just make sure you dry them well before tossing with the oil. try and let me know how it works for you.

sascha doesn't dip either - he says they don't need it, they are expletively delicious 'as is'.

Rebecca said...

Dipping is the whole point!!!

yipe said...

I just served these to my wife as a surprise and they were a hit! Thanks Polly! In my slow-heating oven though it took an extra 15 minutes over the time you listed for them to finish though, not a big deal, they were so good! Thanks again!

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