Food Prep

A Parisian cook’s trick to flawless french fries

A few summers ago two friends and I entangled ourselves in a friendly competition: who could make the best burger? My friends went fancy, making burgers stacked with sauces and cheeses and, if I'm remembering correctly, an insane amount of bacon.

My strategy was different: I went classic and homemade. I ground the beef, baked the brioche buns, and yes, reader—I fried homemade French fries.

I tried to, anyway. After doing some research, I decided to go with the double-fry method. The logic of this method is that you fry the potatoes once to cook them through. Then, just before serving, you fry them a second time to get them crisp.

The fries were not a disaster. But they never reached hot, crunchy, French fry nirvana. So considering the hassle it was to fry them—twice!—I considered the experiment a fail. (Not unrelated: I didn't win that friendly competition, either.)

But now I'm wondering if the problem was that I wasn't making my French fries French enough. In her new cookbook, "My Master Recipes," food writer and cooking teacher Patricia Wells offers a way to make homemade french fries at home that, she says, is "neither brand-new nor unique," but that is nevertheless new to me. She calls her recipe "'Cold-Fry Frites."

What it is, essentially, is a way to fry potatoes that mimics the way you would boil them. Cut the potatoes into fries, rinse and dry them (to remove excess starch), and put them in a pot. Cover the potatoes with oil, then turn the heat on high.

Just as when boiling potatoes, starting the potatoes in cold oil cooks them from the inside-out. As the oil starts to boil (and you do want it to boil), the potatoes get creamy on the inside and golden and crunchy on the outside.

Wells adds just two caveats: 1. Don't use anything other than russets. 2. Don't use an aluminum pot, which won't be able to hold the oil's heat well enough.

I might add a final caveat: 3. There's no need to reveal that this technique is old hat. As long as your guests aren't French, they'll never know you didn't invent it yourself.

Get this recipe: "Cold-Fry" Frites