Every year in late autumn, my parents put up a couple hundred pounds of potatoes. That’s right, a couple hundred pounds of potatoes are sitting in their basement right now. Kept cool, dry and dark, they will last for the majority of the winter. I have always loved this because no matter how bitter the cold was, we could always bring up some potatoes and make oven fries.
When I was growing up, oven fries were the closest thing to French fries that I had on a regular basis. Hot – they’re best when they’re just out of the oven, although I’ve burned my tongue more than once –and a little salty, oven fries were a staple in my life. To me, they represented everything that potatoes were meant to be. They were fried briefly to give them a crisp, brown exterior, and then baked to cook them through. Sometimes, sweet potatoes were thrown in. Other times, it was onions or rosemary.
Cast iron has always been the pan of choice for this dish. At the beginning of my college career, I started building an arsenal of kitchen essentials. To begin with, I wanted an ice cream maker, a waffle maker, a double boiler, a full set of silverware and two sizes of cast iron pans. Those first instincts weren’t half bad. Cast iron is especially versatile, and is in my experience especially useful for baking potatoes in this manner. Not only does cast iron hold heat well, but it easily goes from frying potatoes on top of the stove to baking them in the oven.
Although potatoes appear in meals throughout the day, I like to eat oven fries as an evening meal.
They take a little time to peel, slice and fry them up. After that, there’s another 45 minutes in the oven, during which I typically get impatient. Fresh out of the oven, though, their crispy edges almost sizzle with heat. On the inside, the meat of the potato is almost meltingly soft and creamy.
Add that contrast of textures to the wonderful flavor of the potato, and it’s impossible to turn these beauties down.
Flavor-wise, oven fries can offer a wide variety. From baking them with spices like chili or herbs like rosemary to sprinkling them with vinegar or Italian dressing, it’s easy to play around with the flavors that accompany potatoes.
I often eat these oven fries alone, but they go very well with other foods. My dad likes them with a hamburger or a pan fried steak. My mother always adds sweet potatoes after the potatoes have been roasting about 15 minutes. I think they go well with things like vegetarian chili, or other thick soups.
I suppose my family could be considered a meat and potatoes kind of family, at least while we have a couple hundred pounds of potatoes in the basement. The meat might not be to my liking, but I certainly have a deep and abiding love for potatoes.
Oven Fried Potatoes
1 pound potatoes (about 3 medium sized potatoes)
¼ cup oil
1 small onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 385 degrees Fahrenheit.
This recipe, as a side dish, serves one or two people. It doubles, triples and quadruples beautifully.
Peel potatoes and slice into fries about one-half inch thick. In a bowl, mix them with about 2
tablespoons of oil (enough to cover all of the potatoes) and a little fresh ground pepper.
Heat the rest of the oil over medium-high heat in a large pan on the stove. Fry the potatoes in small batches for about seven minutes, at which point the potatoes should be just crispy on the outside.
Sauté the onions after you remove the potatoes from the heat. If you don’t like the flavor of onions,
I suggest skipping them and instead consider adding a few sprigs of rosemary or a couple dashes of chili powder.
Once both onions and potatoes have been fried, mix them together in an oven-safe pan, casserole dish or roasting tin. Place in heated oven. After 15 minutes, you can add sweet potatoes – these would not be fried, but should be mixed with oil. The sweet potatoes take about half an hour, so the total time for the potatoes is about 45 minutes.
Serve with a sprinkle of salt, ketchup or vinegar.
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