I know I’ve harped on this before, but this time of year always drags on for me, food-wise. Grocery store produce sections look unbearably pathetic, and the farmers’ market (which I know I’m lucky to have this early) has barely anything better. Potatoes. Some limp kale. Once again I have to appease myself with potatoes until I can find something more interesting to spark some creativity in the kitchen again. And frankly, there are only so many ways to dress up a potato, even a yummy farmers’ market potato.
I’ve dabbled in oven fries before. It was always a pretty dismal experience, and the fries never really resembled fries… more just like roasted potatoes. Saying something is a french fry, then not delivering on that promise… that’s unforgivable in my book. So I steered clear of recipes that promised to be as good as fried.
I won’t promise that these are as good as fried. But from one fry-lover to another… they are pretty insanely close. And here is the kicker: when you drizzle them with truffle-scented garlic butter, they are BETTER than their average fried cousin. That is a big claim, I know. I am that confident.
Turns out there are a few tricks to making oven fries that are crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and a gorgeous golden hue. First, you need to soak them in cold water first, to remove the starchy residue. Then, you need to dry them off completely, so they don’t steam themselves. Last, bake them at a higher heat than you think is reasonable. The result is amazing, even without the gluttonous addition of the spiffed-up butter drizzle. But, please, oh please, do not skip the glorious butter drizzle. It’s such a small amount of butter and truffle oil, which is a small price to pay for the happiness taste buds you’ll ever experience. Besides, since these fries are baked in olive oil, you’re still on the winning side of any nutritional conundrum. The best part of these fries is that they make me forget that an hour ago, I was wishing I could find a halfway decent tomato. Halfway through the bowl (yes, I did eat a bowl of fries for lunch… what did you have?), I came to the startling realization that if someone offered me a perfectly ripe and gorgeous heirloom tomato at that moment in exchange for my remaining fries, I think I would have turned them down. And that, my friends, is saying something.
Truffle Garlic Oven Fries
You can easily double this recipe, but make sure that you leave enough room to spread out the fries on the sheet pan. Anything more than 3 potatoes worth, I have found, requires another pan.
And all joking aside, these really are amazingly delicious without the garlic butter and truffle oil. If that’s your bag, just serve them hot out of the oven, and don’t bother with the butter step.
2 large baking potatoes (such as Russet), cut into fries 1/4″ thick
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon truffle oil
chopped herbs, such as cilantro or parsley, optional
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Soak cut potatoes in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes. Remove from water and drain on a dry towel, patting off excess water so that they are completely dry.
In the same bowl that you used to soak the potatoes (or a different one, if you love dishes), toss the potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Make sure that they are evenly coated with olive oil.
Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on how brown and crispy you like your fries, and also exactly how thick or thin you’ve cut them.
While the fries are in the oven, melt butter in a small sauce pan on very low heat. Add minced garlic and keep heat on the lowest setting. Do not let the garlic brown. If the butter starts to sizzle or the garlic starts to brown, take the pan off the heat immediately and leave it off. Otherwise, just leave the garlic and butter on very low heat for a few minutes, until you start smelling the garlic mellow. Take off the heat and stir in the truffle oil.
When the potatoes are crispy and golden on the edges, remove from the oven and toss them back in that bowl (yep, same one) and pour the butter mixture over the top. Give it several good tosses, taste, and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with chopped herbs, if you are using them. Serve.