Pretty Little Purple Shoestrings
I’ve attempted good-old French fries at home before. Once.
And the fact that no song was sung for it in any chapters on this blog, you should know better and NOT to ask what happened. You see, it wasn’t that it was inedible. No no no… who said that?! But the shreds of sanity left in me (surprise) just couldn’t justify the entire process of one-step soaking, one-step blanching and two-steps frying which then are all painstakingly repeated in 3~4 batches. Let alone the giant tub of grease that will never EVER be conscientiously regarded as “fresh” again, ALL for a STINGY amount of fries that (covering my ears) just isn’t all-that-better than outsourced. OK… again you see, the grease is never hot enough. And I could never (maybe you do…) bear to invest the obscene ratio for grease : fries like the restauratns, which is to say… 15:1! And therefore they never come out as goldenly delicious and crispy…
All in all it brings me to say – and believe me that these words don’t come without pain but – French fries are better-off left for professional kitchens.
I know I’m not alone on this because a whole new repertoire of oven-fries recipes is erected by home cooks who share the same sentiments, which again brings me to say – and believe me that these words don’t come without love but – oven-fries generally sucks. You see, the potatoes contain too much water that they will NEVER get evenly crispy in the oven, and the middle parts that sit on the baking sheet are always soggier whereas the tips are always burnt. Perhaps I’m missing the point of a “quick compromise”, but potato strips with spongy centers, partially browned edges and almost burnt tips are a long stretch to be deemed fries.
By the way, this entire conversation does NOT concern wedges! Wedges are NOT fries EITHER! They are… BAKED POTATOES in smaller pieces!
So. I’ve been looking for solutions. First I realized that I simply can’t have it all with oven-fries. They just aren’t French fries, and if I MUST sacrifice one of the two beloved characteristics of French fries, which is to say soft interiors and crispy exteriors, I would have to sack the soft part of course. Then the type of potato needs to contain far less water, and the cuts need to be much slender in order to crisp-up nicely in the oven. And I could theoretically apply oil from a spray bottle for an even layer of coating on each strips of potato, and reapply throughout the baking process to solve the problems of uneven textures.
I hope I haven’t talked anyone out of it already because…
I put my theory to test and what I have on my kitchen counter are two bowls of beautifully crispy, purple yam shoestring fries. Fine, if I want to be REALLY anal about it, they are more like the love-child between potato chips and fries, which can’t replace French fries because they aren’t. They are a whole different types of deliciousness. But is there anything wrong with that? Not to me. And then of course I couldn’t stop there. Let’s see… a bit of minced garlic and thyme… finely grated sea salt and black pepper of course duh!… some snowflake-like parmigiano cheese never hurt anything… And on a total whim I grabbed a lime in the fridge and zest it over them….
PERFECT finger foods. Finally, an adequate, oven no-fry fries! Hey, sometimes life just works out like that.
Servings: 2 snack size
I have myself convinced that it’s crucial to apply the oil from a spray bottle for even coating. Any cosmetic spray bottles that can be purchased from drug stores would work fine.
- 2 large or 3 small purple yams or sweet potatoes
- 4 tbsp of olive oil in a spray bottle (probably won’t use it all)
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tsp of thyme leaves
- 3 tbsp of finely grated parmigiano cheese
- 1 tsp of lime zest
- 1 tsp of fruity extra virgin olive oil
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven on 430ºF/220ºC.
Peel the yams and slice them SUPER thinly into matchstick/shoestring sizes. If you have a mandoline or food processor attachment that could do that, congratulations. I didn’t. Soak the yams in cold water for 5 min, then replace the starchy water with fresh water again, and soak for another 5 min. Drain the water and pat the yams dry in between two clean kitchen towels REALLY WELL. Make sure the moisture on every shoestrings are absorbed.
Prepare two baking sheets lined with parchment paper (don’t use foils… they stick…. don’t ask). Divide the yams into two portions and evenly lay them flat on the baking sheet. I’m going to tell you not to overlay them, and you’ll probably ignore it like I did so myself therefore… just promise me you’ll think about it. Let the yams air-dry for another 10 min.
Before the yams go into the oven, apply a VERY thin layer of oil using the spray bottle (there shouldn’t be excess oil sitting on the bottom). Move them around slightly so they are evenly coated. Bake the first batch on the middle-lower level until some of the shoestrings start to brown. Since my oven heats EXTREMELY uneven, so I take the sheet out and move the shoestrings around every 5~8 min. Reapply the oil on spray bottle 2 ~ 3 times during baking, until every shoestrings are evenly browned and crispy (they shouldn’t “bend” anymore). Take the first baking sheet out and put the second one in.
Repeat the same steps with the second batch. 5 min before the second batch is done, return the first batch into the oven on the lowest level below the second batch to warm it up. During the baking, mince the garlic and thyme then place it in a large bowl. Prepare 3 tbsp of grated parmigiano, and 1 tsp of lime zest.
When both batches of yams are done, transfer all of them into the large bowl with garlic and thyme. Toss evenly with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, parmigiano cheese and lime zest. It’s important to do this while they are still hot out of the oven.
Jason would crack open a bottle of beer, I a diet coke. Then it’s DVD time.