Time for a frying classic – french fries. Almost everyone loves them, but very few of us know what it takes to make them great. A few keys include a first water-vinegar bath, double fry, and freezing process, as well as using russet potatoes which have the ideal structure for perfect french fries.
Next, you want to cut your fries into pieces that are large enough to provide a potato-ey interior, while being thin enough to have enough exterior crunch. 1/4 inch thickness is a pretty good goal – there is a reason that most fast food joints make their fries this size. To cut them, simply cut across the potato in 1/4 inch segments, then turn the potato 90 degrees and do it again.
Assuming you are using 2 potatoes weighing 1 lb altogether, you will want to put them in about 8 cups of water for their bath. Add 1 tbsp of white vinegar and 1 tbsp of salt. We want to bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat, then boil the fries for about 10 minutes, but keep a close eye on them to be sure they don’t disintegrate. The goal of the bath is to eliminate the simple sugars in the fries which allows them to attain a light golden color during later frying. The vinegar is what protects the fries from falling apart, reinforcing the internal structure so they don’t become hollow tubes during later frying or disintegrating from the boiling now. Be warned, though – disintegration can still happen if you aren’t careful and let the fries cook too long!
Next we want to dry the fries out as much as possible with paper towels. The more moisture that is removed from the potato, the better it will fry later since it won’t get gummy. Be generous with the paper towels, and let the fries sit for about 5 minutes.
Once the fries are dry, it’s time for the first fry. Heat enough oil to cover the fries in a pan or pot until a splash of water sizzles. If you can measure temperatures, you want to shoot for about 400 F. Throw the fries in and do a very short fry for about 1 minute, then remove and dry on a paper towel. Let the oil get back up to temperature and repeat with the remaining fries, letting them all sit out for about a half hour to cool to room temperature. The goal here is to build up a thick, outer layer for the fry that will help it retain its structure.This is really important, because the next step is freezing the fries. Freezing helps crystallize the internal moisture in the fry so that when you later do the second frying process, those ice crystals get converted to steam which makes for a light, fluffy interior as opposed to a gummy mess. The crisp outer structure that was created during the first fry helps ensure only the interior breaks down in this way. You will want to let the fries stay in the freezer at least 24 hours for this process to happen. The good news is they can keep in the freezer for a couple months, so you can make a big batch.
When you are ready to actually serve the fries, the process is incredibly simple. Simply heat up enough oil to cover the fries again at 400 F like before, and fry until they are a light golden brown (about 4 minutes). Season with salt and serve!