Vern’s suggestion was basically to take everything I’d learned from my reading on the topic and throw it out the window. Use French Reds instead of floury Idaho potatoes, and don’t worry about frying them twice. And use light olive oil, which gives the fries a really great flavor!! It was really fun, and a lot less stressful than trying to get “the perfect French fry” written about in all my books. Not something I’d want to do every day, but a fun little adventure!
large, heavy soup pot
candy thermometer (measures to 400 degrees) that clips onto the side of your pot
paper towels or brown paper bags
potatoes (French Reds or other variety—what the heck, try whatever you have!)
large jug of light olive oil (NOT extra-virgin! The smoke point is too low.)
sea salt or kosher salt
1. Cut the potatoes into approximately 3/8-inch batons. Don’t bother peeling them.
2. Fill your pot halfway with oil. Don’t fill it much fuller than that, because the oil bubbles SO fiercely when you first put the potatoes in (cooking off the water) that it would overflow if you got it much fuller than that.
3. Attach your thermometer to the pot and heat the oil over high heat, watching the oil temperature carefully, until it comes up to 375 degrees. Carefully slide a smallish handful of potato batons into the oil. Don’t drop them in, because the oil will splash out and could burn you! The fries will bubble up like crazy for a while until most of the outside moisture has cooked off. They might initially stick to the bottom of the pan, but just leave them alone—they will unstick in a minute when they cook a little bit.
4. Watch the oil temperature carefully. It will drop a bit when you put the potatoes in, and then will slowly come back up to temperature, at which point you need to turn the heat way down (or off) until it stabilizes. Cook the potatoes until they are beautiful and golden-brown, and cooked all the way through. This will take a few minutes. Take one out when you think it might be done, drain it on paper towels or bags, sprinkle with salt, and give it a taste.
5. Fry the rest of your potatoes this way, in batches, not too many at a time (because the oil will cool off too much if you overload the pan). Just hang out in the kitchen with your family and enjoy them, hot out of the oil, dunked in your choice of ketchup, or just enjoy them naked!