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French fries


yvonne johnson
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I made steak frites tonight using the Joel Robuchon method for fries reported in Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything. This was prompted by watching a local French cooking show ("Ciel! mon Pinard", in Montreal) in which host Daniel Pinard demonstrated the Robuchon/Steingarten method for easy frites at home using olive oil. Steingarten's/Robuchon's version uses peanut oil. I hadn't got this far in Steingarten's book, which I'm just reading now. I probably wouldn't have tried it if I hadn't watched the process on TV and seen the results.

It works quite nicely. Not the ultimate el perfecto frite done by truly caring spud masters, but better than many of the frites I've tried in Montreal restaurants when ordering steak frites. The result was not greasy, quite crisp, nicely cooked inside and despite the fact I used olive oil it didn't taste of it.

It's an odd technique: cut the potatoes into 3/8 inch fries. Place in high-sided 10 inch pot. Pour in just enough room temperature oil to cover. Turn the heat to high and by the time the oil get to 350 degrees the fries are done. Don't let the oil get above 370. Remove and drain. Sprinkle with coarse salt. I used fleur de sel. Yummy.

Any reason not to reuse the oil I cooked with? May try this with grapeseed oil as well.

andrew

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Not to scare you, but remember that every time you reuse the oil, the smoke point lowers. That is, the temperature at which it can burst into flame :shock: -- no, not really, :hmmm: but start to smoke and make the food taste burnt. So you can't re-use oil more than a couple of times, and even then the quality is diminished. Grapeseed has almost a high a smoke point as peanut to start with, but I don't know how fast it degrades.

Also, if you DO reuse your oil, strain it really well -- through a coffee filter is good -- to remove any food particles. Otherwise they'll burn the next time you use the oil and make the new food bad-tasting.

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I believe Russ Parsons in "How to Read a French Fry" suggests that one retain a little old oil to add to a new batch to improve its browning capabilities. I am sure Russ will chime in if I am wrong. :biggrin:

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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Not to scare you, but remember that every time you reuse the oil, the smoke point lowers.  That is, the temperature at which it can burst into flame  :shock:  -- no, not really,  :hmmm:  but start to smoke and make the food taste burnt. So you can't re-use oil more than a couple of times, and even then the quality is diminished.  Grapeseed has almost a high a smoke point as peanut to start with, but I don't know how fast it degrades.

Thanks Suzanne. This is what I was wondering, since the smoking point of olive oil (375?) is pretty close to the finishing temp of the fries (350). Grapeseed oil with its higher smoking point (485?) should be better to reuse given one doesn't approach this temp in the Robuchon recipe, no? :unsure:

Looking forward to the potato course, jackal10. Despite my love of potatoes, I often look at them and think "what will I do with you now..."

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I heard chefs prefer slightly used oil to fresh one for deep frying. Is this true?

Question on Jackal10's pic - are those single or twice fries or are they the method AndrewM used.  I'm curious and suspect I'll be trying that method this weekend.

Fan of peanut oil here for deep fat frying.

Not a chef, but yes. Fresh oil doesn't brown potatoes. Don't know/remember why. But it doesn't brown. Have to fry a few batches to get some color.

Holly Moore

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Thanks Andrew for trying that method out! I read about that in The Man Who Ate Everything & have been wanting to try that method out. Glad to know you got good results. I'm going to try it out. I wonder if it would work as well for sweet potatos as well?

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  • 1 year later...

Having mastered my fear of deep frying, I find I'm pulling out the deep fryer more and more these days. Indeed, I reprised fried chicken the other night. Tonight I did frozen french fries and well, they just aren't the same.

I now have a mandoline and a deep fryer. Potatoes are cheap. (I'm not yet sure I won't slice my fingers off with the mandoline), I'm ready to tackle fresh made french fries. But how? In a recent conversation, someone mentioned to me that they needed to be soaked, then fried twice. :blink:

It sounds like a lot of work to me for a few fried potatoes. Enlighten me please!

Marlene

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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It is a lot of work, that's why almost nobody does it. You have to first cut them, then rinse/soak them to remove some of the starch. Fry once until partially cooked (just limp). Cool, and then fry again until golden and crunchy. My suggestion is break the work up into a few different steps. Cut and soak one day. Fry 1st another day. Finish when you want to eat them. You can freeze the fries that have been fried for the first time, and then fry just like the store bought versions.

"He could blanch anything in the fryolator and finish it in the microwave or under the salamander. Talented guy."

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I have not yet bothered with the soaking as I am lazy and impatient. Soaking should remove some starch and theoretically prevent overbrowning on the outside. Maybe the soaked fries are a million times beter, but I've had great results without this time consuming soaking and tedious drying.

There is definately a difference between twice fried fries and once fried. Fry once at 325 for about 5 minutes, or until the fries are kind of golden. They will look a bit soggy and sad and everyone who walks by while you are frying subsequent batces (do not overcrowd) will ask "are those the fries" in a very disappointed tone. Turn the heat up to 375 and fry each batch a second time for about two minutes or until they look done. The low temperature fry should give you a soft throughout and the second will crisp and brown the outside. I like to drain and salt them on paper grocery sacks.

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In "How to Read a French Fry" Russ Parsons points out that new oil will not give you the perfect brown french fry you might expect. He suggests using oil that has already been broken in or add a tablespoon of old oil to a cup of new for better results.

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yah blanching is crucial. as is soaking. for me the perfect fry is over cooked. i don't like crisp on the outside. i like crunch. also when you add things like ketchup and vinegar and other moisture to your fries it soaks it up so it's nice to have a head start by over cooking it so it doesn't go as soggy. oh and the most important step... salt them right after they come out of the fat.

bork bork bork

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Bourdain reccomends 280F/140C in Les Halles for the preliminary blanch, I found that results in nice, soft soggy fries which I sometimes even prefer to the twice cooked ones.

edit: If you don't want to blanch, you can always cut into shoestrings which only need one fry.

Edited by Shalmanese (log)

PS: I am a guy.

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Please remember to dry the potatoes after soaking otherwise the hot oil...

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

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Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Jackal10's discussion of deep-frying techniques for potatoes in the eGCI potato primer explains both the methods and theories behind great fries. I think you will find that following his instructions is a foolproof method for producing fries that will be better than 99.9 percent of the fries to be found in the world.

Since I recently made 15 batches of fries, let me also just throw out some casual observations. I relied on Jack's information as well as some guidelines from the Idaho Potato Commission targeted at foodservice providers. The thing I like about those guidelines is that they offer a table of times and temperatures based on size of cut, and they also give you some idea of how to calculate portions (just triple all their numbers to calculate a normal eGullet Society member's portion).

1. I used the 1/4" setting on the mandoline. This to me is an excellent size for fries -- not too thin, not too thick. Russet potatoes are very reliable.

2. When you're making any significant quantity of fries, soaking is not a nuisance -- it's survival. Otherwise your raw potatoes will start turning brown from exposure to air. And what is soaking but putting stuff in a bowl of cold water? It's just not that hard.

3. Drying is extremely easy if you use a salad spinner. You can dry enough fries for ten people in about three minutes.

4. Selection of fat is something that can be discussed forever, but I am currently favoring corn oil. I think you'll also be happy with peanut oil or "vegetable oil." What I would strongly recommend you avoid is canola oil, which every time I have tried it imparts a rancid, almost "fishy" taste. Things get really interesting when you start mixing in animal fats, like beef tallow or duck fat.

5. Nobody in a home-kitchen setting is using enough oil or a serious enough frying device to maintain temperatures when potatoes are added to the oil. The last time I did this, with three liters of oil, I was seeing drops in temperature of 50+ degrees F from relatively small batches of fries -- anything larger than a handful caused major drops. Rebounds were in some cases so slow that the fries were done before the temperature recovered. So you have to do some testing in order to figure out the real frying temperature you're going to get: cook in small batches, and get your oil hotter than it needs to be.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
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Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Selection of fat is something that can be discussed forever, but I am currently favoring corn oil. I think you'll also be happy with peanut oil or "vegetable oil." What I would strongly recommend you avoid is canola oil, which every time I have tried it imparts a rancid, almost "fishy" taste. Things get really interesting when you start mixing in animal fats, like beef tallow or duck fat.

I understand that canola oil contains omega 3 fatty acids - hence the fishy smell when it is heated. We noticed this smell years ago. When I was sautéing vegetables, my husband would come into the kitchen and complain that the "fish" I was cooking smelled over the hill. Yet chefs and cookbook authors continue to recommend using canola oil for high heat cooking. Perhaps someone can explain why. Is the oil used by restaurants specially processed to eliminate the offending acids?

Ruth Friedman

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I skipped a couple of steps by putting my cut potatoes into the fryer with the oil cold. Then turn the fryer on. They came out very crispy and stayed that way.

Gorganzola, Provolone, Don't even get me started on this microphone.---MCA Beastie Boys

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Heres something which I don't think many people practise. The whole point of the big vat of oil is so that you can bring the fries up to temp without having a huge spike in cooking temp. However, once the fries are at equilibrium, theres no real point in using up so much oil. So, instead, if you need to make up a large batch of fries quickly, have one big pot of oil over high heat and several smaller ones just big enough for a batch of fries over lower heat.

Drop one batch into the big oil and wait for the temperature to recover, then move it into the smaller pot and proceed with the next batch.

This way, you can get far more fries done in the same amount of time. Which also means your oil won't break down as much so you can use it longer.

PS: I am a guy.

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