Perfect French fries really are a science, wouldn’t you say? And maybe also an art – the art and science of the perfect French fry. With a side of perfect, spicy ketchup for dipping. This will be our topic du jour: we’d better get started.
Now, of course, I’ve read all the rags and I know what’s what: the truly perfect way to make French fries is to double fry them. You par cook them in oil at a lower temp then jack up the heat and get those fries sinfully crisp on the outside and wonderfully soft on the inside. It’s so wrong its right, and I enjoy being wrong/right every time I go to my favorite local fry spot.
But I’m lazy. And I’m not into eating deep fried foods all the time. And I still need to have some crispy taters, dang it! So I worked out a recipe that would get me where I needed to go without all the drama.
Perfect Baked French Frytown, here we come.
A. served as my taste tester as I worked out the kinks in this recipe. The keys?
1. Don’t cut your fries too thin. I know conventional wisdom dictates the 3/8″ x 3/8″ cut. But I like to go just a little thicker, cutting my fries at 1/2″ x 1/2″. Why? Because I really like that fluffy interior, and you’re really going to bake the BB cream out of these fries so you need to have a substantive inside that can stand up to that degree of cooking.
2. Don’t peel the potatoes! Leaving the skin on helps with the crisping and also lends an extra layer of earthy flavor to the fries. Plus it’s one less step for you to take and that’s always nice.
3. Don’t over oil your fries. Believe it or not, you’re going to make these perfect fries with just a tablespoon of oil. That’s it! If you over oil your taters they’ll get soggy. And that’s just gross.
4. Don’t skip the soak! Soaking out some of that extra starch in an ice water bath is so important for crispy fries. Skip the soak at your own peril.
5. Do make sure your fries are bone dry before oiling and seasoning. Take a moment and be sure you’ve really dried out the potatoes after removing them from the ice water bath. I actually place them in front of powerful fan for a few minutes to be absolutely certain that they’re bone dry. Damp potatoes will be the death of your perfect French fries.
6. Do line your pan with parchment paper. The last thing you want to deal with, after all of this effort, is fries that won’t come off your pan. What a tragedy. Don’t let that tragic ending befall you and your fries: line your pan. It won’t keep the fries from getting crispy.
And last but not least:
7. Do dip your fries into your condiment of choice before popping them into your mouth. I recommend this simple, spicy Ancho Ketchup. It’s like a lovely, sweet sweat suit for your fries.
And since you baked them instead of double-deep frying, your fries are the only thing that you need to think about putting in a sweat suit. That’s my kind of perfection.
Best Baked French Fries + Ancho Ketchup
For the fries:
5 large Russet potatoes
1 tsp. sea salt, finely ground
1 tsp. garlic, ground
1 tbsp. peanut oil (I like the flavor of peanut oil here but you can substitute just about any light oil, even olive oil.)
For the ketchup:
24 oz. tomato paste
4 c. water
2 tbsp. garlic, ground
1 1/2 tbsp. ancho chile, ground
1 1/2 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. cumin, ground
1 tsp. New Mexico chile, ground (These New Mexican chiles were red and hot. You can substitute cayenne or simply omit if you prefer a milder ketchup.)
2 tsp. sea salt, finely ground
3/4 c. white vinegar
1/4 c. dark brown sugar, tightly packed
1 1/2 tsp. canela, ground (Ground cinnamon may be substituted here.)
Preheat oven to 450°.
To prepare the potatoes, cut them into sticks that are roughly 1/2″ x 1/2″. I did this by first slicing them in half vertically, setting them cut-side down on my work surface, and then making 3 more vertical slices through each half. I trimmed any excess off of each fry piece to make them roughly uniform, and discarded any end pieces that were overly small or curved. This isn’t an exact science: you want your fries to be roughly uniform, but because potatoes aren’t generally uniform, you can just do the best job possible. Once your potatoes are trimmed to size, place them in a bowl with enough cold water to cover, add 2 cups of ice, and set aside to soak for approximately 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, to prepare the ketchup, whisk the tomato paste, water, vinegar and brown sugar together in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Whisk in the remaining ingredients and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce immediately to a simmer and cook together until thickened and fragrant, approximately 45 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Once the potatoes have soaked for at least 30 minutes, drain and dry thoroughly. Toss the garlic and salt in a large Ziploc bag to blend and then add the potato pieces. Seal and toss well to coat. Add the oil and, again, toss well to coat. Arrange the seasoned fries on a parchment-lined baking sheet; the fries can be touching – I recommend placing them cut-side down to the extent possible. Bake until golden brown and crispy, approximately 50 minutes. Remove and serve immediately with ketchup.
YIELD: approximately 4-6 servings of French fries and approximately 7 cups of ketchup (Yes, I know, this is A LOT of ketchup: I really prefer to make condiments in large batches. You can store your ketchup in glass containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 months – it gets even better with time.)