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America, baking, home cooking, recipes, unruly chefs

Satisfried

05.09.11 | 5 Comments

There’s a lot about the American diet and food culture that doesn’t click with me: meat, butter, white bread, meat. The lack of diverse dining options (though I know this is not true of everywhere in the US), the high cost of ‘fresh’ produce. A huge part of the reason I love China (and many of the Asian countries I’ve visited) is because the cuisine a food culture clicks with me: communal eating, highly diverse flavor, lots of fresh (albeit oily) vegetables. But I’m not going to use this post to kvetch as much today; instead, I’d like to talk about one American food that does click with me: French fries.

Though the fry may have originated in Belgium and is certainly not exclusive to the US, it has become such a popular side to most every sandwich and burger in the country, that we should switch to the Yukon Gold Standard and trade in French fries.

Manatee potato!

I was raised to be a fry lover. At the annual state fair, my mom and I used to share blocks of fresh curly fries dowsed in vinegar. At McDonald’s, my dad had to create a rule stipulating that I must eat my burger before the fries, otherwise the burger would go uneaten and all that high-quality ‘beef’ would go to waste.

Sadly, the consensus that fries are bad for you is fairly uniform. Salted, deep fried tubers will do nothing for your waistline or arteries; group this harsh reality with gas prices, Hollywood remakes, and the strapless wedding gown trend, and we’ve just clicked one notch closer to There Is No God, And If There Is, Why Would He Make Us Suffer So.

Ergo, I have not eaten French fries but a handful of times in the past two or three years. Sometimes, I make exceptions, as everyone should do on occasion. But to satisfry my cravings, I came up with my own alternative. It’s not a silly non-food recipe, a processed product, a ‘low-calorie substitute,’ or a diet gimmick. It is, simply a whole food unencumbered by a lot of oil.

It’s also nothing earth-shaking: it is oven fries. I actually don’t know how prevalent home-made oven fries are, but if the frozen French fry section of the grocery store is any indication, my guess would be not very. However oven fries are fairly easy; once you’re done chopping, just throw them in the oven and make the rest of your meal.

The key to making oven fries is the ideal crispiness factor: baking them long enough to get out the soggy, but not so long that they char. Seasoning is the other key; I’ve found that salt, pepper, and Old Bay make for a zingy, finger-licking combination.

Otherwise, the process is simple: wash some potatoes, cut them up. I have found that cutting them slightly thicker helps with the crispiness; I used to cut my fries much thinner, but they would get too crispy in the oven. Cut a bit thicker, they are both soft and crispy.

Put the fries in a bowl. Add olive oil and ignore my dirty glass. The amount is up to you, but I use a tablespoon for every four or five potatoes I’ve cut up.

Mix it around to coat the potatoes. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Mix them around again. Slide them onto a baking sheet lined with foil (makes for easier clean up) then shake some Old Bay seasoning on top. Pop them in the oven at 450 degrees F for about 40 minutes or until their gold an crispy but not charred. Enjoy with liberal ketchup.

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