Hand Cut French Fries

October 11, 2014

Hand cut french fries with flaky sea salt

These here are the real deal.  Just like board-walk fries but even better.  I don't know anyone who doesn't love real hand-cut French Fries.  I'm not talking about limp, fast food fries or the flash frozen ones you can get at your local supermarket.  I'm talking about real, honest-to-goodness hand cut french fries.  They're so good they're worth the extra hassle involved in making 'em...and I'm not gonna lie.  It takes a few hours to get crispy perfection like this.  But once you eat them, you'll understand what I'm talking about.  Click below to read more.

My baby holding potatoes
So - you'll need potatoes.  Take it from me...you'll need a lot of potatoes.   When your family gets a hold of these, they go much faster than you think they will.  Typically, I use regular Russet potatoes, which my little man aka Joe Cool is modeling for me right here.  I think this is a ten pound bag.  Yep.  That's right, I said ten pounds of potatoes.  As soon as word gets out, you'll have neighbors ringing your doorbell and family conveniently stopping by for a visit.  They're that good.

leave the skin on the ends of the potatoes
Next step is to peel these guys.
There's a lot of 'em, so now is a good time to wrangle in helpers to make the job go quicker.  Luckily, I have a lot of help in that department.  The good part about peeling these is that it doesn't have to be perfect.  These are meant to be a little bit rustic.  I only peel the length of the potatoes, and leave the skins on the ends.  So in no time at all, you're going have a giant bowl of potatoes that look like this.

What comes next is to hand slice them into French Fries.  Now, I know what you're thinking.   Why doesn't she just use a potato slicer to make it easier?  I'll tell you why.  I have had a couple of slicers in the past.  I had one with a plastic frame and my potatoes were so large that they broke the frame when I tried to pass the potato through.  So I bought the nicest one I could find - it's all stainless steel with razor sharp blades.  The problem with this is the potatoes are usually too round to pass easily through the blades.  The potatoes never go straight through, so you end up getting slightly curved fries, that constantly break off when you try to straighten the potato up.   Who wants a bunch of broken fries?  Part of the problem is I'm not tall enough to get the proper leverage on the potato, but the other part is that it just ends up to be more trouble than it's worth.

How to slice potatoes by hand
Hand cutting is quicker by far, and it's not really hard at all to get (mostly) uniform slices.  Don't worry though.  They don't need to be perfectly uniform.  A little variation makes them look even better.

Just slice the potato in half length-wise.  Then slice one of the halves in half by laying the flat side down onto the cutting board.  This gives you pretty fat wedges of potato.

Starch coming off of cut potatoes
Just lay the wedges on the board, flat side down and cut it into the shape of fries.  It depends on the size of the size of the potato, but I generally make two slices.  Keep going until you have finished all of them.

Now they need to soak in cold water rinse the starch from the surface of the potatoes.  If you don't do this, they will not achieve the crispy perfection that they would otherwise.  As an added benefit, it's been determined that soaking also reduces the presence of Acrylamide, a naturally occurring chemical that develops when starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures.

The minimum amount of time I would recommend soaking them is two hours, changing the water at least once.  My preference is to soak them overnight in the refrigerator, (also changing the water at least once) but I don't always have the time to do this in advance.  You can see in the photo to the right how the water looks slightly milky has bubbles in it.  This is the starch coming off of the potato,and it is your enemy.  It acts like a shield to prevent the oil from crisping the potato.

Dried, raw fries
After the potatoes have soaked and been rinsed, you'll need to drain them and dry them well.  I do this by lining some big trays with paper towels and laying the rinsed, drained potatoes on the trays flattening them out as much as possible so the water wicks into the paper towel.  I get more paper towels and pat the tops dry.  That's a lot of fries! You can also use lint free kitchen towels to be more Earth friendly.

Blanch fries at 300F for 6 minutes

I'm sure everyone is wondering just when we'll be able to eat these babies and I promise, we're almost there.  Just two more steps:  blanch and fry.  Why do we need to blanch them?  To get the crispy perfection you've been working so hard for.   Try a small batch without completing this step and you'll see what I mean.

To blanch the fries, fry them at 300F for about 6 minutes.  Be careful not to overload the basket and wait for the oil to go back up to temperature between batches.  If you add too many potatoes to the basket, the temperature drops and then the oil is too cold to make the potatoes crisp up.

Fries that have been blanched

After blanching, they should look something like this.  You can see how they're just starting to get that crispy look to them.  Drain them onto some fresh paper towels and let them sit for a bit while you blanch the rest of them.   They can sit while you get the rest of dinner started too because it's almost go-time now.

Last step.  Crank the fryer up to 375F.  That's how hot it needs to be to finish them off.  Again, work in small batches being careful not to overload your fry basket and wait for the oil to go back up to temperature in between batches.

This time, it should only take about 3-4 minutes to finish them, but use your eyes as your judge.  Some people like them to be a little darker than others.  Whatever your preference, uou can't go wrong here.

When they're done, drain them onto paper towels or a wire rack over top of a cookie sheet and sprinkle liberally with the salt of your choice.  Sometimes I'm in the mood for seasoned salt, and sometimes I use flaky sea salt.   That's it.  And don't forget the ketchup, Heinz, of course!  Get the recipe is after the jump.

Hand Cut French Fries

5 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled along the circumference, leaving skins on both ends
Peanut oil
Seasoned Salt or Kosher Salt
About a roll of paper towels

1.  Slice potatoes in half longwise, then into fries.  
2.  Soak potatoes in cold water, at least 2  hours.  
3.  Drain, and rinse potatoes well.  Pat dry with clean paper towels and arrange on a large cookie sheet lined with paper towels.
4.  Working in batches, blanch potatoes for 7 minutes in peanut oil that has been heated to 300F.  Drain onto wire racks on top of cookie sheets lined with paper towels.
5.  Working in batches, fry the potatoes for 3-4 minutes (or until they begin to get good and brown) in peanut oil that has been heated to 375F.
6.  Drain onto wire racks over cookie sheets lined with paper towels.
7.  Salt liberally with either seasoned salt, flaky sea salt, or kosher salt immediately after draining onto wire rack.

-  I  have tried using a hand held fry slicer, but the potatoes constantly get stuck in the blades.  I found it to be much easier and quicker to simply cut them by hand.

-  I actually slice them the day before I want to make the fries.  I fill up two large stockpots with water, and pop 'em in the fridge overnight.  This greatly cuts down on the prep time.

-  Make sure the oil temperature goes back up to the desired temperature before adding the next batch.  This is critical or the fries won't crisp properly.  Similarly, don't overload the pot of oil because the temperature drops too much and interferes with crisping.

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