Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Meal: Shoestring (AKA Julienne) Fries

Posted By on October 31, 2011, 9:05 AM

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When I was a kid, my favorite snack was shoestring potatoes. I don't remember the brand, but they came in tall, cylindrical, cardboard cans. --- You can still find variations in stores - Pik-Nik brand, for example - but they don't taste the same as I remember them from my childhood. They just don't taste like POTATOES. 

Recently, a friend asked me about "julienne fries." Frankly, I'd never heard of them. Julienne is a cutting technique - to "julienne" (verb) is to cut veggies, potatoes or whatever into thin strips - matchsticks, if you will. Apparently, the term "julienne fries" has caught on thanks to infomercials advertising kitchen gadgets which julienne foods. 

At any rate, since I can't find pre-made shoestring potatoes that are worth a damn, I've taken to making my own. It's actually quite simple, provided that you have a couple of helpful tools: A deep-fryer and some sort of mandoline food cutter, even an inexpensive one like a plastic V-Slicer, which actually works quite well.

Here is how I make shoestring potatoes at home. They make a terrific side dish, or you can use them to garnish meat and fish dishes or whatever. I also like to use them to top beef Stroganoff. 

Ingredients: 

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Russet potatoes (as few or as many as you wish), washed and scrubbed - peeled if you wish; I like the skins on

Oil for frying, preferably peanut oil

Salt or other spices and/or herbs

Technique:

Preheat a deep-fryer with oil to 335 degrees F. Fryers differ in temperature settings, so if you can't get 335 degrees exactly, get as close as you can. Many recipes suggest cooking at 375, but I find that the spuds burn before they're cooked all the way through at that high temperature.

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I use paper grocery bags ("paper or plastic?") to drain the cooked shoestrings on. Set up a work station before you begin cooking, with paper towels or paper bags next to the deep-fryer.

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Using a V-Slicer or mandoline - you could also just use a sharp knife if you've got a lot of time on your hands - cut the potatoes into matchsticks. The amount you make is up to you. Since I'm going to the trouble of getting my fryer out of the pantry, heating up the oil, etc., I usually make a lot of fries, using a couple of potatoes at a time per batch, so as not to overcrowd the fryer. Unlike standard French fries, these shoestring potatoes will stay crisp for days, stored in an airtight container or Zip-loc bag. 

Shred the spuds directly onto a clean kitchen towel.

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Dry the shoestring potatoes wrapped in the towel, patting gently, to absorb most of their moisture. 

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Then, place a batch of dry, uncooked shoestring potatoes into your fryer basket. Be sure not to overfill the basket. Leave the fries plenty of room to roam. 

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Lower the basket into the hot oil. Using tongs, carefully move the shoestrings around once or twice during cooking, so they don't clump together.

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With my fryer, cooking the shoestring fries for 7 minutes at 335 degrees is perfect. However, cooking times may vary a bit depending on the freshness of your oil, the size of your fryer, temperature fluctuations, and so on. I had to experiment with quite a few batches before I found a recipe that worked well each time.

When the fries are golden and crispy, drain on paper towels or paper bags.

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Toss with salt or any other spices or herbs you'd like and serve.

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Inevitably, some of the shoestring spuds stick together. At my place, these are a special treat reserved for the cook. I munch on them as I'm making additional batches.

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