I love french fries, but I try to be good when I am out at a restaurant. If I really want them I make them myself. French fries aren't hard to make. They just require some advance organization and a few tools: a sharp knife, a deep fryer or a deep heavy cast iron skillet, a fry basket and a deep fry thermometer.
The keys to crisp french fries are using fresh oil, having the oil at a constant high temperature and making sure that the potatoes are dried. As far as how many these homemade fries will serve, it really depends upon who is eating them. I figure one potato per person but you can judge how much you need depending upon your group,
The traditional method requires cooking the potatoes twice. The first cooking time sets the potatoes and cooks them inside. The second cooking time finishes cooking the potatoes and makes them crisp and golden brown. Don't crowd the potatoes, because this will bring down the frying temperature and make the french fries too oily. Remember, the temperature goes down as soon as you add the potatoes. That is why it may take a few more minutes for the first frying.
You'll also find methods for frying shoestring below. And while the recipes here recommend peeling the potatoes, you may prefer a more rustic presentation with the peel on. Either way they're delicious.
There a number of ways to cut the potatoes: try the french fry cutter disc on the food processor, any of the french fry gadgets or a very sharp knife. If you like to dip your fries, why not try a garlic mayonnaise instead of ketchup? Or offer both if you can't decide. Serve these on a plate or in a basket.
2 pounds baking potatoes or 4 medium baking potatoes (1 medium potato per serving, depending upon your appetite)
1. Peel the potatoes and cut into 3/8 inch by 3/8 inch by 4 inches. Cover in cold water for a few minutes to remove excess starch.
2. Heat about 3 inches of oil to 330 F in a deep fryer with a basket or in a heavy deep pan. If you don't have a deep fryer, use a deep-fry thermometer to register the temperature. If you don't have a basket to keep the fries together, use a pair of long tongs to remove them from the oil.
3. While the oil is heating dry the potatoes carefully with dishtowels. (Wet potatoes splatter and may stick together.) Immerse the basket in the hot oil to avoid the potatoes sticking. Remove the basket from the oil. Place 2 cups of potatoes at a time in the basket or in the pan and lower into the oil. The oil will expand and cover the potatoes.
4. Fry for about 4 to 5 minutes or until the potatoes are light yellow but have not started to brown. Adjust the temperature so it stays at 330 F. Make sure that you do not crowd them. Remove the basket over a bowl to drain and then set aside for at least 10 minutes. These may be held at room temperature for up to 2 hours.
5. Right before serving, heat the oil to 370 F and fry the potatoes again, in batches, for about 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Remove the basket and drain over a bowl. Transfer and drain on paper towels. Place in a serving bowl or basket, season with salt and serve immediately.
1. These are only cooked once. Cut peeled potatoes into skinny strips (1/4 inch by 1/4 inch by 3 inches). Cover in cold water for a few minutes to remove excess starch.
2. Heat the oil to 375 F. While the oil is heating dry the potatoes carefully with dish towels. (wet potatoes splatter.) Add the potatoes in batches (1 potato at a time), stirring with long tongs to make sure they don't stick together.
3. When golden brown, remove the basket over a bowl to drain and then turn out on paper towels to blot the excess oil off. Place in a bowl or napkin-lined basket, season with salt and serve immediately.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Parties," and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)