Be prepared to fry the potatoes twice: once to cook them so they fluff inside and again to get them crispy on the outside. When I use an electric fryer, I always follow the manufacturer's instructions. To make good fries in a pot on the stove, a deep-fat thermometer is essential. It ensures that the oil is at the proper temperature for deep-frying and lets you check that the oil isn't overheating, a potentially dangerous situation. A mandoline is a very useful slicing tool for cutting the potatoes (and other vegetables) quickly and to a uniform size. Both the deep-fat thermometer (also called a candy thermometer) and the mandoline are available at most cookware stores. The third essential is a pot that is large and tall enough to contain the oil without overflowing when the potatoes are slipped in.
12 cups grapeseed or canola oil
3 large russet potatoes
1. In a tall 8-quart soup pot, heat the oil over high heat until it reaches 300 F on a deep-fat thermometer. Keep the thermometer attached to the side of the pot at all times.
2. Have a bowl of cold water ready. Scrub the potatoes under cold running water. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into long 1/2-inch thick batons (sticks) using a sharp knife or a mandoline set on the widest setting. Immediately place them in the bowl of cold water to prevent discoloration.
3. When the oil is at temperature, increase the heat to high. Drain the potatoes well, pat them dry, and carefully drop a third of them into the hot oil. This is the moment when the oil could overflow. If it looks like it might, pull a few potatoes out quickly, using a slotted spoon or tongs, until the oil subsides.
4. Have a baking sheet ready. Keep an eye on the temperature of the oil. It will drop to about 260 F after the potatoes are added. Continue cooking the potatoes without disturbing them until the oil heats back to 300 F, about 5 minutes. Remove the cooked potatoes carefully with a slotted spoon or tongs. Shake them lightly over the pot to drain excess oil. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the potatoes. Occasionally, between batches, the temperature of the oil can get too high. If that happens, turn off the heat and wait until the oil cools to 300 F before proceeding.
5. Once all the potatoes have been fried, fry them all together a second time, this time at 320 F. They will crisp in about 5 minutes. Shake off excess oil, transfer them to a large serving bowl, and sprinkle generously with salt.
Reprinted with permission from The Paley's Place Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from the Pacific Northwest (Ten Speed Press, 2008). Copyright 2008 by Vitaly Paley and Kimberly Paley.
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