Cerines Cooking School: Crispy French Fries

Who doesn’t love French fries? Did you know that you can get better-than-restaurant-quality results from making french fries right at home?

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Potatoes are absolutely wonderful here in Cyprus. What we lack in variety (no purple or red potatoes can be had on the island!) is made up for in outstanding quality. The best potatoes are grown on the east of the island, where the soil is naturally red and produces wonderfully-flavored, pale yellow potatoes that feature an unblemished, thin skin.  Here at Cerines, our favorite way to eat these gems of the earth is to fry them. A bunch tucked into a pita filled with wood-grilled pork souvlakia is pretty much gastronomic heaven.

There are just a few tips you need to follow to get perfect results every time: golden, crispy potatoes that really don’t need much else except a large platter to serve them on. So good, catsup is beside the point. Sea salt? An unnecessary indulgence. Very few foods are so perfect when they are fried; no batter, no fuss. Just their own sweet, earthy goodness, magnified by the natural sugars caramelizing on the exterior surface when cooked.

As easy as it is, this delicious treat can head south rather quickly. Is there nothing worse than a soggy french fry? Actually, there is: an undercooked, soggy french fry. This happens for a few reasons:
1) The potatoes have not been washed, leaving the naturally soft starch to prohibit crisping
2) The potatoes have been added to oil that was not hot enough.
3) The size of the cut: with larger pieces, the interior mass still holds an incredible amount of moisture. Try dipping a french fry in catsup and see what happens; the crispiness quickly dissipates.

Follow this three-step process and you’ll never buy ready-made French-fried potatoes ever again.

For best results choose large, oblong-shaped potatoes, washed and scrubbed.

STEP ONE: Cutting the potatoes
With a santoku knife or a knife with a tall, thin blade, cut each potato lengthwise in slices no thicker than a shoestring. Stack the slices of potatoes on their side and repeat, drawing the knife through the potatoes instead of using a downward motion. This will allow you to control the width of the slices. If it is easier, cut each slice for the second time on its own, until you get the hang of it.

STEP TWO: Washing, rinsing and drying the potatoes
Fill a very large bowl or a clean sink with fresh water. Throw all the cut potatoes into the water  allow to sit for few minutes, allowing the starch to settle.

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Remove potatoes with both hands to a colander, being attentive not to stir up the starch. (When you throw the water out, you’ll be surprised how much starch residue is left in the bottom of the bowl.)

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Place a clean dish towel on the work surface. Spread the potatoes out in a thin layer. Cover with another dish towel and pat to dry thoroughly.

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STEP THREE: Frying the potatoes
Meanwhile, fill a large, heavy-duty stainless steel pan with your preferred oil (we use sunflower), no more than 2/3 full. Heat the oil on high heat. You don’t need a thermometer to test the oil. Drop one potato slice into the hot oil. It should immediately begin to be surrounded by bubbles and float to the surface.

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Add the potatoes in batches, being careful to not crowd the pan. Cook the potatoes until just golden brown and remove them to a baking sheet. Cook all the batches of potatoes.

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Allow the oil to heat up fully again and re-fry the potatoes for another minute. Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towles to absorb any excess oil. Serve immediately.

 

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