Frites maison

Homemade French fries

Making your own French fries is simple and delivers fabulous results. Fried in two stages, they come out crisp and golden on the outside, meltingly tender on the inside.

A key to success is to use starchy rather than waxy potatoes, for example Idaho, Russet or Yukon Gold in the States, Maris Piper in the UK, and Bintje or Monalisa potatoes in France. The recipe requires a large quantity of oil — a good vegetable or peanut oil, not olive oil — but you can filter it after frying and reuse it several times.

As for equipment, the French traditionally use a friteuse — a fryer fitted with a wire basket — but this is not necessary. I made the fries pictured above using a sturdy Teflon-coated pot and a standard kitchen sieve.

You can shape the potatoes as you like. The quantities below will serve two people or one very hearty eater.

1 pound (500 g) potatoes
3/4 to 1 quart (liter) cooking oil
fine sea salt or table salt

Peel and rinse the potatoes. Slice them into sticks of the thickness you desire — about  3/8 inch (10 mm) wide for standard fries, or 1/4 inch (6 mm) for pommes allumettes, or ‘matchstick’ fries (although this is considerably thicker than a matchstick).

Thoroughly rinse the potatoes again. Drain and dry off with paper towels.

Set a sieve over a recipient, like a large pot or a bowl, and have it standing by.

Pour the oil into a sturdy pot to a depth of at least 2 inches (5 cm), and set it over high heat. It will be ready for frying when it reaches about 320 degrees F (160 degrees C). If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, simply immerse one potato stick in the oil — when tiny bubbles form around it, the oil is hot enough.

Now you are ready for the first frying. You don’t want to crowd the potatoes, so if you’re using a smallish pot, do them in two batches.

Immerse the fries in the hot oil and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Remove one fry and taste it — if it is tender inside, it’s time to remove the fries from the oil. They will still be pale in color. Lift them out with a slotted spoon or spatula, place them in the sieve to drain for about 5 minutes, then remove them to another recipient to make room for the second batch if necessary.

If doing a second batch, now’s the time.

For the second frying, turn up the heat. When the oil is boiling, immerse the first batch of half-cooked fries. Cook until they turn golden, another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove to the sieve, shake off as much oil as possible, then turn the fries onto paper towels to drain. Salt generously while hot. Repeat with the second batch.

The fries are best served straight out of the fryer, but you can also make them ahead of time and reheat them in a hot oven for about 5 minutes. Serves 1-2.

To save the oil for another use, pass it through a sieve into clean jars while still hot. Cover the jars only when the oil has cooled. Refrigerate.

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