Thursday, February 10, 2011

Homemade French Fries

This is me and my 'Old Granny,' Grandma Leona, back in the 1980's. My father's mother, Leona was in her 40's when my father was born, and my mother's mother, Arlene was 16 when my mother was born, and cheeky thing that I was, I would refer to them as Old Granny and Young Granny when talking about them. I talked about them often, and today I almost daily contemplate what they would think of things, or how they would respond to situations that arise in my life. I dearly loved them both, my Grandmother Leona inordinately so, and I would tease her that I was her favorite -knowing I wasn't, but just to get a rise out of her. Back then I didn't buy Kalamata olives or many other ingredients that have since become staples in my kitchen. Back then I was really, really poor. I was just learning to make pizza dough and bake bread -heavy, dense and toothsome loaves (I have come a long way in that art)- and we ate LOTS of potatoes (we, being myself and my then 19-year-old boyfriend, who is now my potato-growing-gardener husband of over 25 years). One of our favorite ways to eat potatoes was as homemade French fries. With only a bag of potatoes, a bottle of ketchup, and a bottle of vegetable oil, all cheaply bought, we were set!

We grow our own potatoes here, just as my Grandma Leona, and later my parents, did on the the ranch in Eastern Oregon. The potato patch back on the ranch in the 1970's, was HUGE -potatoes being one of the main foods eaten daily all year round by over ten people- and I hoed and hilled my fair share of spuds in it. Now, we grow a relatively tiny potato patch in our garden here, yet despite it's modest size, every year we have a rather impressive spud harvest. Growing potatoes is easy and enjoyable, and harvesting potatoes is quite fun, like an Easter egg hunt in the dirt! The truth in cooking something that's basically one ingredient, like homemade French fries, is that the quality of that one ingredient makes a huge difference. If you grow your own, you know that a potato is NOT just a potato. Homegrown Yukon Gold potatoes make the most amazing French fries, but even a pretty low quality spud, as we were buying back then in the 1980's, will make a perfectly decent French fry.

Plan for 1-2 potatoes per person, depending on how big the potato and how ferocious the appetite of the persons eating. Active teens, and twenty-somethings short on money and eating irregularly, will both eat an enormous quantity of homemade fries, but a single medium spud is usually good enough for the rest of us. Peel and cut the potatoes into fat sticks. Leave them to set a few minutes in cold water to remove the outer starch.

Heat peanut, canola or vegetable oil, until a bread cube dropped in browns in about 15 seconds. Fry potato sticks in relatively small batches. I use this old caste-iron Dutch oven my mother gave me, but in the 1980's we used our stainless steel wok. Though not really very good for stir-frying on an electric stove, a wok is JUST THE THING to use when deep frying.

Fry the potatoes until only about three quarters done. Drain on paper towels or newspaper, and continue until all the potatoes are partially cooked. It is OK if they get cool, or even cold. If you are really, really hungry, you can skip all this and just keep cooking until it looks like something everyone wants to eat, but twice frying the potatoes really makes noticeably better French fries.

For the finishing, second fry, the heat can be raised a bit, and larger amounts can be put into the oil at one time -3 batches of the first frying can be done in two batches the second time.

Fry potatoes until golden brown, remove to paper towels or newspaper to drain, and sprinkle with salt immediately. Serve hot, with lots of ketchup, to hungry and applauding people. Of course, one can jazz these up with all sorts of seasonings, and they can be served as a side with all sorts of foods, but when the wolf of hunger was snarling just outside our door during the 1980's, making homemade French fries with ketchup would always drive him away.


  1. You can't beat a bit of egg and chips! (Chips are french fries in the UK and crisps, are chips!) Whatever you call them, they make the world go round! I try and make them no more and no less than once a week, sometimes we are naughty and have them a couple of times in a week. My Grandmother also must have made tons of chips in her life time, we used to queue up, and she would always have hers last.

  2. I love your blog, Tamra ~ thanks again for sharing. It's like listening to Garrison it!

  3. That explains so much! Your brother will judge a restaurant merely on their French fries... he's in love if they're hand cut steak fries! Bet ya can't guess what I'll be making this weekend :) Your shawl is beautiful by the way! I don't see any mistakes. Luv you Sis!

  4. I like reading your reminiscences...I love my Grandmother too, also she was good at cooking.
    Anyway, I become want to eat french fries :) I will try.