The main difficulty with making your own French fries, a.k.a. frites, is managing the oil. If you don’t have a deep-fat-fryer you will want to use a large high-sided pot or pan with a heavy bottom. Then make sure you don’t fill it too much more than halfway with oil. Secondly, use a digital thermometer so that you can monitor the temperature of the oil – a very important thing to know. If you have any questions about tools, visit the Tools and Equipment section.
– Peeled Russet Potatoes, 1-2 per person depending on how hungry they are, and some Sea Salt for seasoning them, the frites that is
– Knife and Cutting Board, or Mandoline for cutting the potatoes into 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 inch batonnet, and a couple Large Bowls for soaking, drying, and salting the frites
– Deep-fryer or deep, wide and Heavy-Bottomed Pot for frying the frites and a Candy Thermometer to make sure we don’t start any fires
– About 10-12 cups of Peanut Oil or Fryer Shortening, which is a vegetable blend I think
– Spider, Skimmer, Slotted Spoon, or Basket for placing and removing frites without burning ourselves or once again starting fires
Step 1. – Peel a few russet potatoes, also called Idaho or baker potatoes. Then either using a mandolin or by hand, slice them into long square 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 strips of consistent size and shape. Fill a bowl with ice-water and put the potato strips in until you are ready to fry, at least 20 minutes. This removes some of the starch, making it easier for the potatoes to cook or something. Drain them well in a colander, then pat them dry with a paper towel.
Step 2. – To get a really good, crispy on the outside creamy in the middle french fry, we have to blanch them in hot oil before we deep-fry them in it. Heat the oil, I am using peanut oil here, to 260 degrees F. Using a basket, spider, skimmer, or slotted spoon lay a couple handfuls of the dried fries in the oil. Don’t overcrowd them. Let them cook for 8-9 minutes. Then drain and lay them out on a towel-lined baking sheet to keep them from getting soggy.
Step 3. – This is when we make the fries all nice and crispy. Heat the oil, carefully, to 360-370 degrees F. Once the oil is up to temp and holding, add 2-3 handfuls of the blanched french fries to the pot and fry them for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Then put the frites into a bowl lined with paper towels to soak up excess grease. Then remove the towel and toss with a big pinch (tsp per batch) of sea salt and serve immediately.
Only fill the pot to around the halfway mark with oil. Too much oil might cause the fryer to overflow when you add the frites.
Use a thermometer. Its the only way to know what the temperature of the oil is. And that is very important.
When adding things to the fryer do it carefully and slowly.
Make sure you use only oil that approved for deep-frying. Some oils foam up when they are used to deep-fry this will cause the oil to boil over and start a big bad fire.
References: Les Halles cookbook, by Anthony Bourdain.