She Cooks: Crispy French Fries

I love French fries. I like homestyle restaurant versions. I like greasy fast food versions. I like them with the skins on and with the skins off. I even like the bagged, frozen supermarket versions — yes, even the off-brands!

I like them so much that I don’t buy them. You see, if there is a bag of frozen French fries in the freezer, and if I have a working oven to cook them, I will eat them. All of them. In a very short time frame.

So I don’t buy them. (OK, in full honesty I do buy them, very, very occasionally. But only if we will eat them all at one meal!)

I do make French fries, though. Sometimes. And I do so love them. They take time and some effort, so I don’t make them too often. It’s a perfect balance.

And I’m going to show you how to make them, too. These are not just French fries, but guaranteedcrispy French fries. Yum!

Crispy Homemade French Fries

Ingredients:

Potatoes (I like russet potatoes; about 1 small potato per person)

Frying oil (high smoke point oil like vegetable, canola, peanut…)

Seasonings (we are a salt and pepper family, but Cajun blend seasonings or “seasoned salt” is great, too)

Procedure:

Peel the potatoes (optional). Cut into slices about 1/4″ thick. I do this by cutting the potato lengthwise into 1/4″ thick slabs, then those slabs into 1/4″ thick strips.

Cover with generously salted water. Bring to a boil and cook briefly, about 2-3 minutes. The potatoes should be just fork tender, but not falling apart. Think potato salad, not mashed potatoes!

Meanwhile, set up a French fry draining station, using a cooling rack over a baking tray. One rack will be sufficient for 4-5 small potatoes. You may need multiple racks.

When the potatoes are justfork tender, drain them thoroughly, then spread them in a single layer on the cooling racks. Allow them to rest and dry out for a few minutes (a good time to preheat your cooking oil).

Heat about 1/2″ of oil in a heavy skillet. Cast iron really works best here, if you have it. Heat the oil until shimmering. Test the oil readiness by holding the end of a potato in it. The potato should immediately begin sizzling, like this:

When the oil is ready, carefully place potatoes into the oil, in a single layer. Adjust the burner setting so that the potatoes sizzle gently, like this:

Cook the potatoes until they are golden brown. The darker they get, the crunchier they will be. But also, the less fluffy they will be inside. So, it is a balance of perfect browning. Every couple of minutes, use tongs to gently “stir” the potatoes to ensure they don’t stick to the skillet or each other. Turn them a few times, also.

When they look about like this:

carefully remove them back onto the cooling rack. Immediately season to your liking, while the fries are still hot.

As they rest here, they will soften slightly. It is best to eat them as soon as possible.

But don’t burn your mouth! 😉

Tip: don’t toss out that oil! Allow it to cool completely. Using a small strainer over a funnel, pour it into a glass canning jar. It can be reused several times, so long as you are frying “bland” things in it.<<<<<<<<<<<
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Fireplace Cooking Exp. 1: Beans

My first experiment was the obvious thing to cook in a Dutch oven over a fire: beans!

I soaked a pound of dry pinto beans in water overnight. In the morning, I drained them, added them to the pot, and covered with fresh water. I wasn’t sure how long the beans would take, so I put it over a low fire about mid-morning.

After about an hour, the beans were almost tender already. So I seasoned them with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and a few dry bay leaves. I added one yellow onion, roughly chopped, and 12 ounces of smoked pork sausage, sliced.

I checked them an hour later. The beans were tender and dark. The broth was tasty. But it was only midday!

So I set the pot on the hearth for the rest of the day. Before starting white rice cooking on the stove, I hung the pot back over a small fire to warm the beans.

That, above, is the result. We ate them spooned over peppered white rice with green beans on the side.

My first experiment was a huge success. I can see us eating a lot of fireplace-cooked beans this winter. It was warm, comforting, and filling. Perfect for an evening before a low-20 degree F night!

Fireplace Cooking: A New Series!

Our new house has a fabulous fireplace.

It isn’t as efficient as a wood stove for heating the whole home, but it keeps our living spaces toasty warm.

And, see that bar and hook at the top? That’s for hanging a cast-iron pot, a Dutch oven.

I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to learn to cook over that fire. After all, we would be burning wood to heat the home anyway, right? Why not use the energy to cook at the same time?

I hope to experiment frequently over this winter with cooking over this fire. And I’m calling the series Fireplace Cooking (aren’t I creative? Ha!).

If you want to see which of my experiments succeed and which fail miserably, subscribe via the WordPress platform or via email. Or follow me on Instagram (@belovedbrowneyesblog) or Facebook (Beloved Brown-Eyed Girl Blog).

She Cooks: Tomato Soup

This makes a great low-calorie lunch for one. And can easily be scaled up for more servings.

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Single-Serve Tomato Soup

1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce

1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1 tsp dried basil leaves

Combine everything and heat until warm. Or microwave for 1-2 minutes on high.

I like to serve this with sliced cheddar cheese and whole wheat crackers, a grilled cheese sandwich, or a BLT sandwich, depending on my calorie goals for lunch that day. ☺

She Cooks: Creamy Tomato Pasta

This is a simple, quick lunch I make often for my toddlers. I change the vegetables according to what I have available, and don’t always have cream cheese, but they gladly eat it any which way!

Creamy Tomato Pasta
Serves: 12 (1/2-cup) portions

Ingredients:

1 lb. pasta (garden rotini & whole wheat bowties are favorites, here!)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 sm yellow onion, diced small
2 carrots, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp Worcestershire
1 Tbsp ketchup
1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
4 oz. cream cheese, softened, cubed

Process:

Put salted water on to boil, for pasta. In a separate pot, saute the onion, carrots, and celery in oil/butter for several minutes until very tender. Add garlic and cook briefly (less than a minute). Stir in Italian seasoning, bay leaves, Worcestershire, and ketchup. Add tomato sauce, bring to simmer, and cook on low about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente, drain, return to pot. Stir cream cheese into sauce until melted, then pour over pasta and stir together.

Modifications:

There are several ways to adjust this recipe.

  • add more vegetables to the onion/carrot/celery mix; try eggplant, zucchini, squash, or sweet potato (diced small enough to cook quickly)
  • add peas or chopped baby spinach to the sauce after simmering, before adding the cream cheese
  • add broccoli florets or fresh green beans to the boiling water for the last 2-3 minutes of pasta cooking time
  • substitute 1/4 cup heavy cream or 1/4 cup plain yogurt for the cream cheese
  • add fresh herbs instead of the Italian seasoning
  • like spicy food? replace the ketchup with hot sauce!

The sauce keeps well in the freezer. I only cook 4-6 oz of pasta at a time, and I store the extra sauce in the refrigerator or freezer for another day. That way, the pasta doesn’t swell with sauce and turn mushy!

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sauce on garden rotini pasta

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just the sauce