I love french fries. I will choose them any chance I get: with an inappropriate amount of ketchup at the dining hall in my college days, with a burger at In ‘n’ Out, at a McDonalds on a road trip, dipped in Dijon mustard and served with steak in Paris. They are my weakness. I can’t say no.
So it had always irritated me that I couldn’t make good, crispy fries in my own kitchen.
This recipe solved my problems. The main takeaway: you must soak the sliced potatoes in cold water for up to an hour before baking. According to Food and Wine, soaking removes excess starch, which (somehow) helps the potatoes crisp. The second important thing: bake the fries in a single layer, without crowding. This allows each fry to crisp due to contact with the pan and with the dry heat of the oven, rather than steaming due to contact with each other in the pan.
I said this solved my problems. But now that I have unlimited access to crispy fries in my own home, I worry I may have a new problem on my hands: how to stop myself from having a heaping plate of fries for dinner every night of the week.
The crispiest baked French fries (serves 4-6 as a side, or you know, maybe 2 for dinner if that’s the kind of week you’re having)
From David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen
3 pounds potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
Fresh herbs, such as a big handful of sage leaves, a few sprigs rosemary or thyme, or a mixture of them. (Don’t skip these: they crisp up so wonderfully and are just as delightful as the fries themselves! I especially like sage in this recipe.)
Wash and peel the potatoes, leaving on a few strips of skin as you go. Cut the potatoes into 1/3-inch-thick (1cm) slices. Lay the slices on a cutting board and slice them into 1/3-inch-wide (1cm) sticks. Put them in a large bowl with very cold, lightly salted water, and let them sit for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Drain the potatoes and lay them on a kitchen towel. Rub them with the towel to dry them very well.
Spray two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or very lightly coat with olive oil. Place the potatoes on the baking sheets. Dribble the olive oil over the potatoes and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Add the fresh herbs and mix everything together with your hands. Spread the potato sticks out in a single layer on each baking sheet.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom midway during baking. As they bake, stir the potatoes several times so they cook evenly. Once the fries are golden brown and crispy, remove the pans from the oven and serve immediately, with Dijon mustard if you like.
Note: Want these two nights in a row, but don’t want to do two separate preps? I found that you can prepare the potatoes through the soaking stage up to a day in advance. Slice the potatoes, soak them, and then cook however many you want to eat that night. Place the uncooked (but sliced and soaked) remainder in a plastic bag with a paper towel on the bottom. Keep that in the fridge overnight. Then proceed with oiling and baking the next evening, when you are ready.