Thursday, January 26, 2012

Yow! French fries at home! Can it be true?

Late Tuesday night, I had a major hankering for the classic french dish, Moules Frites (mussels in white wine broth with french fries) but we had plans for friends to come over to our place for dinner, so I knew I wasn't headed out to our local french spot to quench that craving last night. However-- never one to be deterred-- I decided that WE would make the moules frites! The mussels aren't such a big undertaking. They sound fancy, but honestly they're a cinch to make. The french fries, on the other hand, are the real challenge. I'm pretty sure I've never had a good home-made french fry before, however every time I have a good restaurant french fry, it makes me want to go out and buy an industrial deep-fat fryer.

Against my better judgement, I decided to "google search it" to see whether there was a way around "oven-baked potato strips" which simply wouldn't be as good. I know they're healthier.... and they're nice.... and they're easy... but really. Let's be serious. They're just a disappointing non-fry. Let's call a spade a spade. And I wasn't interested in non-fries. I wanted FRY-FRIES. 

I found this recipe on epicurious, which I thought held a lot of promise. Because John's a good sport and I'm a good whiner, I was in charge of making the mussels and he was in charge of making the fries. He still kind of smells like a McDonald's employee this morning :)

  Classic French Fries:


  • 3 to 4 cups vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 pounds Idaho or russet baking potatoes, peeled, rinsed, and dried
  • Sea Salt, to taste


1. Pour enough oil into a deep fryer to reach at least halfway up the sides of the pan but not more than three-quarters. Heat the oil to 325°F.
2. Using a chef’s knife or a mandoline, cut the potatoes into sticks 1/4 inch wide and about 3 inches long. Dry the potatoes thoroughly with clean paper towels. Divide the potatoes into batches of about 1 cup each.
3. Fry the potatoes until lightly colored but not brown, 4 to 5 minutes per batch. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with remaining potatoes.
4. Heat the oil to 375°F. Fry the potatoes in 1-cup batches until they are golden brown and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain on fresh paper towels. Repeat with remaining potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately. 

The key to success here is twice-frying the french fries. So you do all of them once, and then send everybody back in for a second dip. Another tip, we used our mandolin to slice them, which made for beautiful, uniform, restaurant-looking fries in a flash. (Okay-- John used our mandolin to slice them. I'm scared of our mandolin because I think I'm going to cut off a finger.) The results of this experiment were surprisingly delicious and extremely close to restaurant-esque. On the whole, a success!

Highly recommended! 

For the mussels, I did a winging-it concoction of white wine, saffron, sweet onion, thinly sliced fennel, garlic, a little diced tomato, and store-bought seafood stock, but you can follow your dreams with the mussel broth. Just make sure there is enough liquid to steam the mussels open (5-8 minutes in a covered, simmering pot) and enough liquid to sop it up with crusty french bread or homemade fries! 

Below are a couple of recipes to check out, but like I mentioned, I encourage you to edit to your taste preference. One note: Most of these recipes recommend ONE pound of mussels per person. This is a CA-CA-crazy amount of mussels for a single person, man or woman, to eat in one sitting. I bought 2-1/4 lbs. to split between three of us, and we still had six or seven leftover that we literally COULD NOT BRING OURSELVES to eat, we were so full. My advice: Err toward 3/4 lb. per person, depending on your audience.

*Mussels with Cream, Fennel, and White Wine
*Steamed Mussels in White Wine
*Mussels in Saffron and White Wine Broth 

I think I took my cues from the last recipe, the mussels in a saffron and white wine broth, but based on name alone, I think you'll be in good hands with any of those recipes. I highly encourage you to track down some french music, light some candles, and have a delicious parisian meal tonight. You won't regret it.

(Although your house might smell a little greasy in the morning. : ) The cost of wonderful living!)

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