I have to admit, of all the junk food out there, I have a weakness for fries, or chips if you prefer to call them that. Isn't it funny how you can order a burger and fries but you always order fish and chips? There actually is a difference, french fries are slender and delicate while chips are traditionally thicker. Anyways, whatever you like to call them, I love them, especially eaten like they do (and I did) in Belgium, with mayonnaise. The trouble is, trying to make good ones at home seems like a frightening mess with hot oil and fear of grease fires. Well, that is what I used to think. I had it in my head that in order to make your own fries safely, you had to have a deep fat fryer and I wasn't about to bring one of those home. No offence if you have one, but it seemed to me that you could only make fries so many times and then you found yourself deep fat frying everything from ice cream to chocolate bars and there was no need to go there.
Then I learned something truly revolutionary by chance one night. I realized that I could cut the potatoes with just a knife, no fancy gadgets needed and with my best friend the cast iron pan, I could make the most delicious fries at home. If you don't have a cast iron pan (I highly recommend that you invest in one) you can use a dutch oven or a very heavy bottomed pot. The other revelation was that you could put the potatoes into cold oil. My first thought was that this would make them heavy and greasy. But there is always an exception to the rule and this is one of them. What you get is the loveliest, crispiest chips with a floury, soft inside. Who knew? Nigella, that's who and Bon Appetit magazine. Thank you for that. So here you go, low tech fries that anyone can make. And if you are afraid of the hot oil, no need to fear. Make sure to keep an eye on the pan and if the oil is bubbling away too hard, just turn down the heat. We had these last night with a fish supper and I can guarantee you it was better than any restaurant fish and chips we have ever had.
Your kids will LOVE you for making this. This is also very nice with a cold beer, but just for the grown ups.
Low Tech Fries
inspired by Nigella Lawson from Nigelissima
4-5 large russet potatoes cut into strips (you can leave skins on if you like)
Enough oil to cover the fries, about 2 cups
I recommend using sunflower or grapeseed, you can also use peanut if you like
Salt and Pepper to season
Cut your potatoes and dry them with a paper towel. This is a very important step, you need dry potatoes to make this work. Then tumble them into your pan and cover with oil. Turn the heat up to medium and keep an eye on them. Once the oil starts to bubble, make sure that it is not out of control. Use your judgement here, you need it to be bubbling gently, not splashing everywhere.
Let the potaotes cook, undisturbed for a few minutes. Then with a long wooden spoon, give them a little stir around. That is it. Just let them do their thing until they start to turn a nice golden colour. This usually takes about 15 minutes or so. Once this happens, take one out and test it. You can overdo these easily, so keep an eye on them. Once they are done, the whole process takes about 1/2 hour, remove with a slotted spoon, transfer onto paper towel or newspaper and season with salt and pepper if you like.
If you are making fish to go with them, you can add it into the hot oil and cook. If not, take the pan off the heat and enjoy your super yummy fries. I recommend you try them with a nice mayonnaise for a change, the Belgians know what they are doing.
Crusty Fish Supper
1 lb white fish cut into 4 inch pieces
Snapper or Cod work really well here
1 cup of flour seasoned with salt and pepper
2 cups of Panko
Cut your fish into sizeable pieces. Please use the freshest you can. To choose the best fresh fish, it should not smell "fishy." Don't be afraid to ask the fish monger to let you smell the fish, if they are reputable, they will let you.
Dredge the fish in the flour, then in the egg and then in the Panko. On medium high, cook in the hot oil, a few minutes each side, about 6 minutes in total. Remove when golden brown and let rest on a paper towel or newspaper. Serve with mayonnaise or tartar sauce (which is really just mayonnaise with pickles and lemon in it), your yummy fries, fresh lemon wedges and steamed broccoli.