When the chips are up
How do you make perfect french fries (chips) so they are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside? I heard that they are fried twice - what does that do? How do you do that?
Chips, once considered unhealthy fodder for badly fed folk, are now one of the most revered dishes for the foodie. These days there are even thrice-cooked chips which I've recently eaten at both Dinner and The Fat Duck. The former is the "hardest to get a booking at restaurant" in the UK, and the latter a three Michelin star restaurant, both run by the lovely, smart and slightly eccentric Heston Blumenthal.
You can emulate these chips pretty well at home. Choose the flouriest potato you can as these make better chips.. Look for varieties such as King Edward, Laura, Marabel, Maris Piper, Red Rascal, IIam Hardy, Agria, Fianna and Victoria.
Firstly, cut your potatoes into 1cm batons (peeled, or unpeeled but scrubbed) and rinse in a bowl under gently running tepid water for three minutes, stirring them every now and then to help remove surface starch. Place in a pot and cover with plenty of cold water then bring to the boil in unsalted water and boil for five minutes. Drain and leave to dry completely on a tea towel, patting dry.
Once cool, place in the fridge on a clean tray for an hour, uncovered, to dry out a little more. Ideally cook no more than 1kg potatoes at once or cook in several batches.
And then we come to the fat versus oil debate. Word on the street is that beef dripping produces the best chips. As a child I had a very nasty burn from beef dripping so you'll understand why I'm not the biggest fan. I prefer using vegetable oil for a cleaner taste; canola or sunflower oil are great.
Heat your fat or oil to 150C and place the chips in, allowing just one layer at the bottom of the fryer - cooking fewer chips at a time prevents the oil dropping in temperature too quickly. Cook for 5-8 minutes, at which point they'll be softened and slightly coloured, but not golden. Drain and cook the rest this way in batches. Finally, turn the oil up to 180C to cook the chips a second time in slightly larger batches - but don't overload the fryer or they'll not crisp up. Fry till golden and crisp. Drain really well and sprinkle with flaky Marlborough or Maldon sea salt and eat hot. Yum!
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