I have been craving potatoes lately. I wake up drooling at the thought of eating McDonald’s hash browns — maybe six or eight of them — for breakfast. At dinner time, I imagine myself tipping large orders of French fries into my mouth straight from the cardboard holder.
The other night, we watched Bobby Flay’s visit to Ireland, and his factoids about how many potatoes the average Irish citizen consumes annually nearly drove me crazy.
However, I have heard somewhere that a diet of fried fast food — especially French fries — may not be the a healthy diet. Also, potatoes that restaurants cook for you are ridiculously expensive compared to the cost of the raw ingredients.
On the other hand, deep frying is a dangerous mess. The potential for burns, spills, spattering, and even fire is very real — and when you’re done, there’s a lot of cleanup and used cooking oil to deal with.
Today, while tediously uploading dozens of photos from years gone by, I remembered that I can always make oven fries.
Oven fries are the perfect solution. You can enjoy hot, healthy-ish sticks of potato that are soft and fluffy inside and crispy golden brown outside with minimal fuss and mess.
Ideally, you’ll want to use a nonstick silicone baking mat on your baking sheet. This makes fry removal foolproof. As an alternative, you can take a generous sheet of aluminum foil, crinkle it up and then flatten it back out again to provide an uneven surface which resists sticking.
Simply spreading the fries right onto the baking sheet will usually cement them to the metal — not what you want.
With your silicone or foil-covered baking sheet at the ready, it’s time to make some oven fries:
- Preheat your oven to 400° F.
- Thoroughly scrub two or three of your larger, longer russet potatoes and pat them dry — but leave the skins on. That’s the best part.
- Using a suitable chef’s knife, slice the potatoes lengthwise into slabs about 3/8 of an inch thick. Then cut the slabs into 3/8-inch sticks.
- Right there on your cutting board (the polyethylene one), drizzle about a tablespoon and a half to two tablespoons of canola oil all over the fries, and toss to coat evenly. Canola oil is mostly monounsaturated fat, meaning it’s better in all sorts of ways (wink, wink) than other fats.
- Arrange your oiled potato sticks in a single layer on your prepared baking sheet. For the ones that have skin, place the skin side down. Then salt them all, but very lightly. As you may know, salt is a silent killer.
- Roast in your oven at 400° F. on a rack two thirds of the way up for 50 minutes, or until perfectly golden brown.
- Arrange on a plate with ketchup, and retreat to your home office in the spare bedroom.
Outside, the snow is melting. Racine’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is coming up this Saturday. I have crispy potatoes. Life is good.