All recipes copyright © 2001 Roy Finamore. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Classic French Fries
Serves 4 to 6

This is as much a technique as it is a recipe. Two pounds of russets will give you enough fries for 4 to 6 people, but you can just cut up as many fries as you feel like eating. We do. Remember: this isn’t a last-minute side dish.

While we don’t say no to ketchup, we also like dipping our fries in mayonnaise.

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
Oil for frying (peanut or a neutral vegetable oil)
Coarse salt

Cut the potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch sticks. A mandoline is the tool you want to be using here, but if you don’t have one, here’s a good system: trim off a slice so the potato will lie at on the cutting surface. Cut the potato into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then make manageable stacks of the slices and cut again, this time into sticks. Drop the potatoes into a big bowl of cold water as you cut them. Leave the potatoes to soak for at least 2 hours. If you’ve got room, pop the bowl into the refrigerator; if not, and you’ve got the bowl out on the counter, add ice cubes to keep it cold.

Pour at least 3 inches of oil into a large pot; do not fill the pot more than half full. Heat the oil to 325 degrees. While the oil heats, drain the potatoes, lay them out on clean towels, and blot them completely dry with paper towels. Heat up a skimmer or slotted spoon for the stirring and retrieval of the fries (just put it in with the oil).

Grab a handful of potatoes and drop them into the oil. Not too many, so you don’t lower the temperature. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring once in a while for even frying. The spuds will be beginning to go limp and will show just the slightest hint of gold. Lift them out with your handy heated skimmer and drain them on paper towels.

Once you’ve prefried all the fries, spread them on trays and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Come dinnertime, heat the oil to 375 degrees and heat up that skimmer. Drop in the fries, again by handfuls and again not crowding them, and fry, stirring for even browning, until they are perfectly golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and serve hot.


Steak Fries
These sturdy hand-cut fries sit so nicely next to a juicy, thick steak. They’ll never be as crisp as classic fries, but we love their creamier, potato-ier flavor. Leave the peels on for these, but scrub the spuds well.

Follow the method above, cutting the potatoes by hand into 1/2-inch sticks. The prefrying will take longer, 5 to 7 minutes. The second fry should be about the same, 3 to 4 minutes.

Herbed French Fries
Follow the method above, but while the potatoes chill, prepare 1 cup mixed herb leaves (a combination of parsley, thyme, basil, and oregano is nice). Wash and dry the leaves thoroughly. After you’ve fried the last handful of potatoes, drop the herbs into the oil. Attention: they will spatter wildly, so stand back. Scoop out the herbs with the skimmer as soon as they crisp, which will take a mere 30 to 45 seconds.

Scatter the herbs over the fries and serve.