fries and mayo

The thing is, you can’t successfully transport french fries home. They arrive screaming hot, crisp outside and tender within when you order them at a restaurant, but even if you’re just trying to shuffle them home from down the street, your once-perfect fries steam in their own heat, enclosed in that paper bag. They’re fine but not as good. Solution: fry them at home! Not an epiphany but don’t we all shy away? Hesitating at the perceived bother when it actually is not that big a deal. Potatoes are easy to slice and soak, and oil heats up all on it’s own (with the help of that element that you turned on) so frying potatoes at home doesn’t require much effort on your part, just your attention. And a technique.

Potatoes are dense and starchy. To get them soft but not floury on the inside and golden and crisp on the outside, you want to remove some of the starch and cook the inside before you blast the outside. So, technique: soak to remove starch, fry on low first to cook, fry again to crisp up. Result: golden fries you will burn your mouth on, guaranteed.

Oh yeah, and about making homemade mayo, the best way to convince you that this is not about something better than store-bought mayonnaise, but that it is something entirely different, is to have you try it once. We’re talking a real tang and no gloop, which is is important when you’re thinking of sweeping your fries through a pool of it.

French Fries

4 large russet potatoes (about 2 lbs)
Vegetable or peanut oil for frying
Kosher salt
Maldon salt for finishing (optional)

Equipment: deep-fry or candy thermometer, slotted spoon

Peel and cut potatoes into 1/2″-wide french fries, then soak them in water for 20 minutes. Rinse and shake off as much water as possible. Transfer fries to a colander to dry for at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a deep fryer or a high-sided, deep, heavy pot filled with at least 1 1/2 inches of oil (it should not come up higher than half way up the side). Line a plate with paper towels or have a wire rack set over a metal tray to transfer the fries to one they are cooked. Insert thermometer into the oil and when the temperature is about 275F degrees, carefully add a batch of fries—do not overcrowd—and fry for 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fries to the plate or wire rack. Let the oil heat up to 350-365F degrees and add the fries back and fry until golden which will take about 3 minutes. Transfer fries back to the plate or a rack and season generously with kosher salt. Turn off heat to return heat to the cooler temperature and repeat to fry remaining batch(es). Serve with a sprinkle of crushed Maldon salt if you wish.

Makes 4 servings.

Harrisa Mayonnaise
Adapted from this recipe in Bon Appetit.

*”They” say that raw egg may not be safe for small children, the elderly, those who are pregnant or ill. I know there is controversy around the warning itself but I’m just, you know, warning you.

1 large egg yolk*
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Harissa paste (or mustard for a traditional version)
1/2 tsp salt plus more to taste
3/4 c canola oil

Stabilize a sturdy bowl on a damp towel on your kitchen counter to prevent it from moving. Add egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, harissa paste and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly add drops of the oil while whisking until about a third of the oil has been incorporated, then add the rest in a slow stream until fully blended. Taste and season with more salt if needed. At this point you can add more harissa paste for more heat, or other spices and sauces (sparingly) to your taste. Cover and chill for up to 2 days.

Makes 1 scant cup.

This story and recipe appear in FAT, Issue 012 of Le Sauce Magazine.