Arbys Curly Fries Poutine - Detail - © 2018 Arbys

COVID-19 Lock Down Cooking Fun: Fry Day Tips and ‘Recipes’!

It’s International French Fry Day – time to roll up your sleeves and make something special to celebrate! I’ve got tips and techniques to help make your Fry Day go smoothly and safely, and some suggestions for ‘recipes’ that will elevate your Fries to main-dish majesty…

Bulgogi Fries - © Con Poulos via Food and WineKorean Bulgogi Fries: An exotic take on Dressed-Up Fries for International Fry Day!

There’s no reason not to make your own fresh crispy French Fries today, to mark International French Fry Day. In fact, it’s probably easier than you think. My rule is… ‘Think outside the deep fryer’. No, it’s quite alright not to deep fry and, in fact, it’s a lot healthier in the end.

General Tips:

Use only Russet Potatoes for best Fry flavour and texture, and to produce nice, long Fries for optimum presentation.

Allow fresh-cut fries to rest in cold water (with a good splash of Lemon Juice added to ensure the Fries don’t turn black) in the fridge for 20 minutes to 2 hours before cooking. Pat dry on paper- or kitchen-towels thoroughly before placing them in the hot Oil so they don’t spit.

Serve your Fries piping hot for best flavour and texture.

Deep Frying

If you want to go traditional and deep fry, that’s fine. But you’ll need an immersible frying/canning thermometer a suitably deep pot and a fairly large supply of frying Oil.

The thermometer is to ensure that your oil is hot enough to fry the Potato Sticks, Logs, Wedges or whatever you’re creating to a crispy golden brown on the outside.

By frying Oil, I mean something like Canola which has a high smoke point and is relatively flavourless itself so as not to influence the flavour of the food you’re cooking.

All real Fry aficionados use the two-step method: That is, they give their Fries a lower-temperature pre-cook in the hot oil to cook them through (260 F) so they’ll crisp up quickly and evenly in the main Fry. This will typically take a few minutes, but the exact cook-through time will depend on the thickness of your Potato pieces. This is called blanching and it’s a similar process (with a similar goal) to blanching dense Veggies in boiling Water before starting them on their main, finishing boil/simmer.

Salt your Fries immediately after they come out of the Oil following the final Fry. Allow to drain well before serving so no one burns their mouth.

DO NOT Salt them while your Frying basket is positioned over the Oil Pot! Spilled/surplus Salt will contaminate your Oil and destroy its ‘fry-ability’ (a term used by pro cooks to describe an Oil’s ability to produce a good, crispy finished product).

Shake and bake

Remember the family of products from the 1970’s that made it easy to prep almost any Meat or Veggie for oven baking? Just shake the seasonings in a paper bag with the Food and (in some cases) a little Flour, spread the food in an even layer on a greased baking sheet and let ‘er go at 350 F? It was touted as fool-proof, and the slogan was enthusiastically trumpeted by a tween-aged girl who proudly reported: “It’s Shake ‘n Bake, and I helped!”

Well, many folks these days prefer to Bake their Potatoes rather than Fry them. It’s a healthier alternative to Frying (less Oil absorbed), it’s less complicated, it’s faster, and it less prone to errors. And it’s basically the old, faithful ‘shake and bake’ approach.

Just mix up some Salt and Pepper plus the Herbs and Spices of your choice and stand by… Place a tablespoon or two of your favourite plain (Vegetable or Canola) or flavoured Oil (Peanut, Sesame or Olive) on a large mixing bowl, toss your fresh cut, refrigerator-rested and dried Potato pieces to coat lightly but completely, then transfer to the the Seasonings-and-Spice bag for a good shake. The dry material should adhere to the Potatoes evenly.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 to 425 F for 15 – 20 minutes or as long as it takes for the centre of the Potato pieces to cook through and the outsides to crisp up to a rich golden brown with deeper-brown tinged edges.

Allow the finished baked Fries/Wedges/Whatever to cool (no need to drain) on a parchment paper-covered wire rack to a point at which they won’t burn your mouth, and serve.

Take a shortcut

Yes, this is ‘legal’, especially if you’re new to cooking. Unless you want to invest some extra time and effort to experiment, go ahead and take the shortcut. Use your choice of pre-prepped Frozen Fries and bake following manufacturer’s recommendations. make sure you pre-heat the oven as instructed to ensure crispy, not-too-Oily results…

Go ahead! Spuds are good for you!

This seems as good a place as any in this post to remind you that Potatoes are a healthy food, full of essential nutrients. It’s the stuff most of us put on them that makes them unhealthy. A moderate amount of Salt and/or Pepper won’t add calories or Fat or cholesterol. And neither will Herbs and Spices, if you choose to dress your Fries that way. Just keep in mind that Deep Frying or adding any amount of Oil for baking will add Fat and Calories. But that factor is under your control if you’re making your own. And it’s particularly important to remember this as yo proceed to building Fry-based dishes by piling on additions…

Some recipe ideas…

‘Dressed-up’ Fries can go way beyond Poutine (see photo,top of page).

The big favourite at my house is simply to pile on Stuffed Baked Potato toppings. It’s easy and decadent and familiar… And you can eat these Fries with your fingers if you want. Be sure to stick the finished Spuds under the broiler for a minute or toe to make sure the toppings are nice and hot.

Ditto, Nacho Fries. Top hot, fresh Fries with your choice of Nacho adornments finishing off with lots of Cheddar or Jack Cheese. Place under the broiler for two or three minutes until the Cheese begins to bubble and serve immediately.

Chili Fries are an old favourite. You can use your own homemade Chili or canned from the store. But be sure to dress with lots of cheese and freshly chopped Cilantro. Least messy eaten with a fork, but more fun consumers with your fingers.

Pizza Fries are similar to Nacho or Chili Fries but topped with all your fave Pizza toppings. The final layer of toppings should be Cheese that you can bubble-up under the broiler.

Have you considered using a bed of Freshly-made Fries as the Starch component in an updated ‘Pasta’ dish? Fried are great with Bolognasise Sauce, Ragú, Primavera Sauce, or whatever you like. Fries Alfredo are fun, quick, and there’s hardly anything easier. Whip up your own Sauce or just pour on bottled stuff that you’ve warmed in the microwave). But you really should add some Protein (Chicken or Seafood are great!) and I like to toss in a handful of frozen Green Peas (warm along with the Sauce when microwaving).

Fries Romanov and Fries Stroganoff are no-brainers, especially if you have some meal-portioned bags of the appropriate Meat-and-Sauce dishes in the freezer!

How about topping Fries with something Asian you’d otherwise pair with Rice or Noodles? Fries Tikka Masala? Fries Vindaloo? Fries with Butter Chicken? Fries with Ginger Beef and Broccoli? Fries Pad Thai? Fries Nasi Goreng?

The possibilities are (from a practical stand point) endless…

Now go forth…

… and have a blast on International French Fry Day – however you want to celebrate it!

~ Maggie J.