Oven Fries

February 14, 2009 at 6:32 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Root vegetables, Starches)

Derek has been sick this week, and Katrina suggested I make him “comfort food.”  So for dinner last night I made miso soup and oven fries.  I know the combination is a bit weird, but Derek seemed to enjoy the dinner nonetheless.

This recipe for oven fries is based on a recipe in the Cook’s Illustrated Best Light Recipe cookbook.  It’s actually not particularly light, but it makes very tasty, crispy potato wedges.  For optimal browning CI recommends intense heat and a heavy, dark baking sheet.  To get the insides creamy and smooth they recommend covering the baking sheet with tin foil and steaming them for the first 5 minutes of cooking.  They say that russet potatoes make the best oven fries, but russets don’t seem to exist in Germany.  Instead I used the standard German potato, which isn’t very starchy and has a very yellow flesh–maybe it’s akin to a Yukon Gold?  CI says the russets need to be soaked to remove some of the starch, but I skipped this step since my potatoes didn’t seem very starchy.  I also used olive oil rather than the peanut or vegetable oil they recommend, because that is what I have, and I don’t think it tastes “bitter and out of place”, as CI claims.  I oiled the cookie sheet with only 3 Tbs. oil rather than the 4 Tbs. the recipe called for.

  • 24 ounces of potatoes (1.5 pounds), scrubbed, each potato cut lengthwise and cut into even-sized wedges about 1/2 inch thick
  • 3 to 4 Tablespoons of olive oil + 1 tsp.
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 475 degrees.  Coat a large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet (dark or nonstick is best) with 3 Tbs. of olive oil, then sprinkle evenly with the salt and pepper.
  2. Wash the potatoes and dry them thoroughly.  Cut them into wedges.   Toss the wedges in a bowl with 1 tsp. oil
  3. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and cover the pan tightly with tin foil.  Bake for five minutes, then remove the foil.  Bake for ten minutes, then rotate the pan. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms of the wedges are spotty, golden brown. Scrape the potatoes lose with a spatula, then flip each wedge over, trying to keep the potatoes in a single layer.  Bake until the potatoes are golden and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes, rotating the pan if the wedges are browning unevenly.  If the potatoes seem greasy, drain them briefly on paper towels, blotting away excess oil.

Serves 3 to 5.

Rating: B+
Derek: A- (when they’re right out of the oven)

I’ve made this several times now, and I’m not all that careful about the technique, but the fries always turn out well.  Depending on how fat I slice the potatoes, my largest cookie sheet (a rimmed medium-grey non-stick commercial half-sheet pan) holds about 1.5 – 2 pounds of sliced, small yellow potatoes.  I’ve found that you can really pack the potatoes in, as long as they’re in a single layer there doesn’t need to be much space between the potato slices. Although 2 pounds of potatoes will fit, you have to cut the potatoes a bit too thick, and the wedges don’t crisp up as well, although they do have a nice, creamy interior.   I’ve reduced the oil to a total of 2 Tbs. of olive oil, and although Derek says they’re not quite as good as the original, if the potatoes are cut thin they still crisp up very nicely and taste very good–and they still seem greasy to me.  I think a tsp. of fine sea salt is too much if you’re only using 1.5 pounds of potatoes.  I use about 1 tsp. of coarse salt for 2 pounds of potatoes.  Sometimes I briefly rinse the potatoes and dry them in kitchen towels, other times I’ve skipped this step.  Without a side by side comparison, however, I’m can’t say how much of a difference the rinsing step makes for the German potatoes.

Next time I make these I think I want to add some spices along with the pepper, maybe paprika and cumin?

Derek likes these potatoes as leftovers, heated up in the microwave, but the skins get kind of tough and the insides not as creamy.  I haven’t tried reheating them in the oven, but I imagine that would work much better.

I’ve also tried this recipe with parsnips and they also work well.

Fine cooking recipe:  http://www.taunton.com/finecooking/pages/c00225_rec01.asp

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