Crispy baked fries redeem reputation of lowly potato

Published 11:06 am Friday, August 11, 2017

Crispy baked fries redeem reputation of lowly potato

By Peggy Walker, R.D.

It’s French fries that have given the lowly potato a bad name. Most of us eat too many of them, too often, too
carelessly. For frying certainly adds flavor but it adds fat and calories too. Anything fried in grease soaks it up,
through and through. But, yes that’s what makes fries taste
so good.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a way to make
tasty oven fries. Low fat doesn’t have to mean less flavor.
Nor do homemade oven fries mean tasteless, sickly looking
potatoes that stick to the pan either. There are a few magic
tricks to employ that can accomplish a tasty and satisfying
substitute to heating up a pot full of hot, splattering oil or
making a run through the drive-thru.
Start with russet potatoes for oven fries. Best choice.
And, peel them, fries with the peeling on tend to taste more like baked potatoes and we’re trying to recreate French fries here. Cut the peeled potatoes into ample, evenly sized wedges. The visual appeal of oven fries is just as important too, so you’ll want them to brown nicely as they cook. And there’s a trick to getting them to the right shade of brown. It takes a 475-degree oven, with the fries placed on the lowest rack possible to get the
right color. Be sure to start the fries in a preheated oven too.
Pans matter. For the best looking and best cooked oven
fries you’ll need a heavyweight baking pan. Potatoes
cooked in a lightweight aluminum pan will either be under
or over cooked… pale or burnt. Heavy pans conduct heat
more evenly thereby they cook more evenly, producing a
nice rich, deep color. Lightweight pans will often warp too.
Non-stick pans also work well, but they should also be a
good heavy weight.
Go soak your potatoes. Rinsing and soaking are steps
often used in preparing French fries and work to make
crispy baked fries too. Ice water takes too long to achieve
the desired result, but hot water works perfectly. All it takes
is about 10 – 1 5 minutes of a hot tap water soak to make a
nice, crisp oven fry with a nice smooth center. Just pour off the water and scatter the wedges out over a double layer of paper towels and pat them dry. Add oil. Not too little and not too much but just right. If you’re making 4 servings (about 3 potatoes) you’ll need 5 tablespoons to evenly coat each slice.
For after all, your eye wants to see a slightly greasy, glistening fry. Use a nice mild vegetable oil… like canola, corn, or even peanut. But not olive oil for oven fries; it seems to produce a little off flavor not quite right for fries. Seasoning is not optional if you’re going for full flavored fries, but the trick
here is to sprinkle the salt and pepper on the oiled baking sheet. And, the seasonings will help keep the potatoes
from sticking to the pan. Yes, this recipe requires a few more steps than opening a bag of frozen fries, but these fries are so
much better.
Embrace the potato!

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