Monday, August 13, 2012

Fry me a river

July was cruel. Day upon day of sweltering, suffocating heat. Cook? Blog? Dude, I could barely move. But I'm back now. And look: I made fries!

Okay, so deep frying in the midst of summer is probably pretty dumb, though being able to open the windows and doors to let out the fry-smell is one advantage. But when I spotted this recipe at Alexandra Cooks, I figured it was as good a time as any to finally put the candy/deep fry thermometer we bought more than a year ago to use. I've tried deep frying without one before with mixed results; it really does make a difference; plus you really can't have too many specialty gadgets cluttering up your cupboards, right?

When I think of shoestring fries, I think classic bistro steak frites. And, joy of joys, my local meat shop happened to be carrying a few cuts of hanger steak (or, as you'd see it on the menu in Paris, steak onglet). All I needed to do was give them a rub in bit of olive oil, cracked black pepper (about 1 teaspoon per pound of meat would do) and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Give them about four minutes per side in a hot cast iron pan until they are nicely crusted and still a bit red and set them aside to rest for five to ten minutes before slicing.

The rest period is important because that's when you should cook your fries, having done the bothersome work of shredding them and patting them dry beforehand. If you are having these as a side dish, it's important to get the timing right. The fries don't take much time at all and should be served piping hot. I didn't do that, so learn from my mistake.

April Bloomfield’s Rosemary Straw Potatoes with Lemon Salt
Serves 2

zest of one lemon
1 ½ tablespoons sea salt
Canola, vegetable or sunflower oil (you want something with a high smoke point, not olive oil)
Two or three medium Yukon Gold potatoes (around 1 pound)
a few sprigs of rosemary

1. In a mortar and pestle, bash together the lemon zest and salt until salt is flavoured, coloured, and fine. Place in a dish. Use whatever you need right away or allow it to dry out for a couple of hours before storing it.

2. Scrub potatoes well and prepare them using a mandoline with a julienne blade. Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil in a sturdy, high-sided pan; bring to deep-frying temperature (350°F; to avoid oil catching fire, be sure to maintain its temperature at 350°F). Pat the julienne strips dry with some paper towels to remove any excess starch.

3. Cook the potatoes in small batches using a slotted spoon or spider strainer to carefully place into the oil (don’t crowd them). Fry for about two minutes until golden brown and crisp. Add the rosemary for the last few seconds. Remove the potatoes and rosemary to a large bowl lined with paper towels to soak up any excess oil. Sprinkle with lemon salt and toss before serving.

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