Friday, January 14, 2011

Perfect Home Fries

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch (or join us) as our family of 6 eats, or tries to, on $6/day.

Sick of potatoes yet? I'm honestly not. I like potatoes. They're nutritious. (With skins you get fiber, antioxidants, vitamins C and B6, plus a bunch of minerals such as copper, potassium, and manganese.) And there are tons of ways to prepare them. Apparently, the American public likes their potatoes too. Usually, the statistics tell us, in the form of French fries or potato chips, which hasn't exactly given them the vegetable reputation of the year. Additionally, we Americans like to "load" our potatoes. I'm not opposed to this, per se, but daily that sort of thing might get the best of us.

So I was going to give you a simple home fry recipe--one in which you chop your potatoes, toss them in a tablespoon of olive oil to coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake at 400 degrees.

This is how we usually make our home fries. It's simple, healthy, and tasty. Indeed, I thought self-righteously to myself, they might not be perfect, but at least they're not silly and fussy like some French fry recipes on the web and like that one in my America's Test Kitchen cookbook. I even wrote the post about this. And then I cracked my Test Kitchen cookbook to see how fussy they were so as to mock them. And there they were mocking me with my floppy roasted potatoes cut in strips to mimic a fry. Well, I thought with a hmph, at least mine are simple. The thing is, theirs were too. So I whipped up a mini batch, which I am consuming as we speak. And they really are better. In fact, they remind me just a bit of a Dutch friet. The Dutch eat these great French fries in these white paper cones topped with mayonnaise. Which sounds weird. It might even sound gross. But is really so so good with those fat crispy fries. So mayonnaise is exactly what I ate on mine tonight. And it was so so good then too, and brought back some happy memories to boot.

Thus tonight, I dine on perfect home fries and some humble pie. How about that. You, my friends, have nothing but to gain. (And I won't make you eat mayo on them if you don't want to. But it's good, I swear.)

Perfect Home Fries:
Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $.50

A note on potatoes: When I make home fries I like to throw in a sweet potato. I'm usually the only one who ends up eating it. Because it is orange. And we all know that orange things are dangerous unless they are made of fructose and attached to a skinny white stick. We especially know this when we are 5 years old. Nevertheless, I always throw one in anyway in the hope that one day someone else might venture out. As I'm sure someday someone will. Probably when world peace is accomplished. And the whales are saved. And dolphins. And also when the streets are paved with gold. But people don't care about gold. Because they only care about love and kindness. Yes, one day...

A note on your pan: Use a heavy cookie sheet to get the best fries. A flimsy one might let your fries burn.

First, the recipe: (Which I'd probably double for my family)

1 1/2 lb russet potatoes (about 3 medium russets)
5 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Now, the instructions and tips:

1. Preheat oven to 475. You heard me. Actually you heard America's Test Kitchen. Make sure there's a rack on the lowest spot. Again, obey, even if it seems weird.
2. Cut the fries into strips. Make sure the strips are even in thickness. America's Test Kitchen recommends removing the skins. I will not, as I'm going for optimal nutrient benefit. But you may. I will not judge you.
3. Soak them in HOT tap water for 10 minutes. The water will become cloudy. This will make the fries soft inside with a crisp edge. Dry them off.
4. In a bowl, toss them with 1 Tbsn oil.
5. Pour the rest of the oil on the pan. Sprinkle salt over it. The oil gives the fries a bit more of a fried kind of feeling, and the salt supposedly keeps them from sticking to the pan, though I still had a few stick.
6. Cover with foil. Place them on the bottom rack of your hot oven. (Be careful.) You're going to cook them this way for only 5 minutes. This will steam them so they're nice and soft inside.
7. Remove the foil. Cook for another 15 minutes to make the outsides crispy.
8. Take them out and flip them over. The undersides will be dark golden. Put them back in for 5-10 minutes more.
9. Take them out and place them on a paper towel to degrease a bit.
10. Eat. With ketchup if you will. Or fry sauce (mayo and ketchup) if you've ever lived in Utah. Or mayo if you like to pretend you're Dutch.

P.S. If you really are pressed for time, just cut the potatoes into even strips, toss in 1-2 Tbsp olive oil, and bake at 400 degrees (in the center of your oven) for 20 minutes (unless very thick), flipping them over halfway through cooking time. They may not be quintessential. But they'll still be good. And healthy. And cheap. And they'll save you 10-15 minutes. And sometimes 15 minutes is worth saving. Sometimes.



  1. I was baffled by the first picture. I thought, "your kids eat sweet potato fries?" But now I see that they don't :) Mine won't touch them... or at least not the one time I made them. We've made some good strides with accepting the sweet potato in general this year, so I take that!

  2. WOW those look awesome, Jean! I am amazed by your even-cutting skills. The cutting is my fry nemesis.

  3. Brooke--If you've taken strides accepting the sweet potato, you're worlds ahead of us--I just sneak it into boxed mac and cheese:).

  4. Vanessa--It's the Cutco knives:). It's good something good came from the 6 horrible weeks selling them.

  5. OK, Jean,I have made these twice now. The first time, I took your advice and lined my cookie sheet with aluminum foil.... and it was a DISASTER! Oh my gosh they took forever to bake and the aluminum foil shredded and my mother laughed at me. Definitely would NOT recommend.

    This time, I made them on the pan and they turned out gorgeous. They were nice and soft inside and crispy on the outside. I ate way too many. But I still love you! :) Thanks for the awesome recipe!

  6. Oh Vanessa--I'm sorry. I gave the aluminum foil advice before I tried it. And you're right--it was a terrible idea--I got the same mess when I did try it, and I meant to change it, but forgot, and I will absolutely do that RIGHT NOW. On my first attempt, I just had a teeny bit of the oil get gummy and difficult to remove (which didn't happen when I last made it by the way, so maybe it was the oild or the fates or whatever). Anyway, I thought, "Oh, aluminum foil would take care of that." But--just like you say--it shreds into a big mess. If it's any consolation, I had the same mess when I tried the foil and my mother would have laughed at me too. Forgive me.



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