My boyfriend was recently overcome with the need to create the perfect french fry. Being the wonderful girlfriend that I am, I happily offered my assistance. Oh, the things I do for love. Much research was done, many potatoes were chopped, and thousands (millions!) of fries were eaten.
You see, we don't often collaborate in the kitchen. To be honest, I am a stubborn and territorial cook, and I don't always play well with others. In my desire to change, I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to improve my ways. What a success! I was pleasantly surprised to see his culinary skills in action. He was insightful and inquisitive, and that extra pair of hands came in very handy. Hmmm, maybe this cooking together thing isn't so overrated?
We only had one major deep-fry disaster over the course of things. Apparently one of our Titanic-sized bottles of peanut oil had taken on water (no pun intended) after being left out during a rainstorm. If you've ever witnessed what happens when hot oil hits H2O, then you know what happened next. Yes, a giant ball of boiling grease ate my kitchen for dinner. Narns! But you know what, we lived and learned, and I'm still around to share the recipe with you. My kitchen, on the other hand, has seen better days.
Our process started with traditional hand cut fries cooked at two different temperatures. They were tasty, but we knew they could be better. A little internet surfing revealed a recipe for battered fries. Seemed delicious and worth a try -- now we were getting somewhere. Newly inspired, I used my culinary prowess to create a nicely spiced beer batter that would add some color and flavor to the fry. However, it was my sweet boyfriend who decided we needed to do a test batch of "twice battered, twice fried" fries. Bless him. The results went beyond our wildest expectations. I'm talking restaurant quality french fries, here. And with that, we found our perfect fry.
Still beaming from our successful collaboration, I began plotting our next great recipe attempt. The ultimate fried chicken, perhaps? And then, while getting ready for bed last night, he looked at me with all seriousness and said, "You know what could be really awesome in the batter? Like amazing? Apple juice!" And with that, all hopes of our culinary future together were dashed. I'll let him stick with his day job.
2 pounds russet potatoes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Cajun spice (I use Tony Chachere's)
2 teaspoons garlic salt
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup lager-style beer, plus additional as needed
Peanut oil (or other high smoke point, neutral flavored oil), for frying
Cut potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices, then cut slices into 1/4-inch sticks (I leave the potatoes unpeeled). Soak fries in an ice water bath for at least 2 hours, or up to 8 hours. This removes the starch from the potatoes and makes for a better fry.
Mix flour, spices, and beer to create a thick, pancake-like batter, adding more beer if necessary. Divide batter evenly between 2 large mixing bowls (one batch will be used to dredge the fries before blanching and one batch will be used to dredge the fries for the second cooking). Add potatoes to the batter and toss, making sure to coat each fry completely.
Fill a large cast iron or enamel pot with 3 inches of peanut oil. Heat oil to 325° over medium-high to high heat. In 2 - 3 batches, add fries and blanch until lightly golden and limp, yet cooked through (see third image). This could take anywhere from 4 - 6 minutes. Watch the oil temperature carefully and try to maintain the temperature at 325° (it will lower drastically once the fries are added). You can use tongs to gently separate the fries while they are cooking; they have tendency to want to cling to each other. Remove the fries from the oil with tongs or a spider and allow to cool on a paper towel-lined sheet pan while finishing the remaining batches.
Once all of the fries are blanched, raise the oil temperature to 375°. Dredge the blanched fries in the second bowl of batter, tossing to coat. Still in batches, cook fries until crisp and deep golden brown (see second image), about 1 - 2 minutes, but this could be more or less depending on how much the temperature of the oil fluctuates. Remove to another paper towel-lined sheet pan, taste-test a fry, and season with additional Cajun seasoning or salt as needed. Serve immediately.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)