Saturday, March 31, 2007

Feeding My (Potato) Habit

I have a confession to make. I love potatoes. There. Said it. Ok, so it's not on the level of a heroin addicition, or a wicked bad scratch-ticket habit, but still ... in some settings, this carbohydrate-lovin' habit is harder to confess than ... well a lot of things.

I do love a french fry, so in order to be able to consume as much crispy-starchy goodness as possible, I have mastered the art of the oven fry (and other oven-baked potato yummies).

Oven fries are a great way to feed your french fry habit, without stinking up the house with the smell of frying oil or the stigma of deep fat frying. They don't take too long to prepare, and they are really easy to make.

The tricks are as follows:
  • Russets (baking potatoes) or Yukon Golds will get crispiest. You can use these techniques with sweet potatoes too. They contain more sugar, so you will want to bake them at a lower temp (around 350-375).
  • Get your oven nice and hot. Preheat it to 400 before you start cutting the potatoes up.
  • Cut your potatoes into similar sizes. You can make fry-like batons, or wedges, cubes (large or small) - even matchstick fries. Just make sure they're all about the same size.
  • Oil your potatoes, not the baking sheet. Put the cut potatoes into a bowl with some olive oil. Use your hand or a spoon to toss the potatoes around, you want them each to have a little coat of oil. You use less oil and it's easier than trying to drizzle oil on a buncha little pieces of potato.
  • Season well. While you're oiling the potatoes, toss in some salt and pepper as well. You could also add other dry spices at this point (paprika, cayenne, etc.).
  • Make sure each potato piece has adequate elbow room. For adequate browning, you want the hot air in the oven to be able to flow around the pieces. If you have a convection oven, use the convection setting for this.
  • Turn the potatoes at least once (usually after 10 minutes or so) to make sure they get nice and browned from the hot pan. The only exception would be for the galettes (see below).
Here are two sets of pictures, showing different approaches.

First, for oven-fried steak fries, cut your potatoes (these are Yukons) into wedges. Depending on the size of the potato I get 8-12 wedges per potato. Toss them into a large bowl and drizzle on olive oil and sprinkle on salt and pepper. Lay the wedges on a baking sheet and bake at 400 for about 10-15 minutes. Flip them over to brown on the other side.

Make these oven fries by cutting the potatoes into fry shapes, or matchstick fries but cutting the potatoes into ... you got it ... matchsticks. With any shape, the principle is the same: toss with oil, bake spread out on a sheet.

For a super classy approach, make galettes. Cut potatoes into thin slices (a mandoline or V-slicer is good for this). Toss them with oil and salt and pepper in a bowl. Make little flowers with them on a baking sheet (I like to put them on a sheet that's been lined with a Silpat or parchment paper). Bake for about 20 minutes at about 375.
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