The best pommes frites (aka French fries) I ever tasted were at Les Halles restaurant in New York City. Les Halles was, back then, Anthony Bourdain’s French brasserie and it was located just around the corner from my NYC apartment. The secret to great pommes frites lies in first soaking them in water and then frying them twice: first to blanch the fries at low temperature and then a second cooking at high temperature to crisp them up. This is how they made pommes frites at Les Halles. The recipe is from the late great Tony Bourdain himself.
- 4 Idaho russet potatoes (to serve 4)
- Peanut oil for frying
- Table salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper (optional)
- Fill a large bowl with ice water. Peel the potatoes and cut them into ½-inch- (1-cm) thick sticks. Put them immediately into the bowl of ice water to keep them from oxidizing. Leave them in the water anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight, then rinse well in cold water to take out much of the starch.
- After rinsing, dry the potatoes well on a clean kitchen towel. Wet spuds will splatter horribly in hot oil.
- In a deep fryer or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil to 280°F (140°C). Cook the potatoes in batches, about 6 to 8 minutes for each batch, until they are soft and their color has paled from opaque white to a semi-translucent white. Do not get impatient and yank them out early. Remove them from the oil with the skimmer or wire basket and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Let them rest at least 15 minutes or up to a couple hours.
- For the second round of frying, bring the oil up to 375°F (190°C). No hotter, no cooler. Fry the blanched potatoes in batches for 2 to 3 minutes each, or until they are crispy and golden brown. Remove from the oil with the skimmer or wire basket, shake off the excess oil.
- Immediately drop the fries into a second large bowl, which has been lined with a clean, dry towel or paper towels. Add salt to taste and optional black pepper and whip out the towel. Toss the fries around in the bowl and serve while still hot.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.