One day in the middle of the night in my first year of college, I woke up with a terrible pain in my stomach. Until that very moment, I had never experienced such a pain in my life. It felt like there was a fire in my stomach. After a quick visit to the emergency room, I found out that my stomach was bleeding. I had to spend the next couple of days in the hospital for the doctors to balance the PH levels in my stomach and stop the bleeding. It was (and still is) the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life.
After the bleeding stopped, my doctor suggested that I get help from a dietitian and find a way to change my diet for this to not happen again, especially because he knew that I wasn’t eating healthy. On that very day I had the stomach bleeding, I had a big jar of sauerkraut (with all of its juices!!?!), and a big bowl of French fries for dinner.
Needless to say, it was an eye opening experience that made me realize that I had to make major changes in my eating habits. Immediately after I was back from the hospital, my parents took me to a dietitian, who explained to me how and why stomach bleedings happen and what might have occurred to my stomach on that very day. She put me on a strict diet, where I had to eliminate all the fried and salty food, and eat more of a plant-based diet. It was very hard at first, but I knew that nothing could be worst than the pain of my stomach bleeding. I stuck to the diet and changed my eating habits. As a result, I lost more than 40 pounds in the course of a year and half after the day I had the stomach bleeding. And I am proud to tell you today, after almost 15 years from that day, I did not gain any of those pounds back. As I look back and think, I realize that although it was a very painful experience, it changed my life. More than anything, I learned that minor changes in my eating and cooking habits could have a big (and positive) result in my health in the long run.
After that incident that let to so much weight loss, for years I was scared to eat French fries again. I buried my desire to eat that crispy and salty delicacy somewhere so deep that I was never even tempted to research if there might be other ways to make them.
Fast forward to February of last year, I decided to try a couple of oven-baked fries recipes that I found on the Internet. I thought that it was about time for me face my fears and find a way to make peace with fries.
However, I just could not find a recipe that was close to the taste of the fried version that I used to love so much. Almost all the recipes that I found on the Internet claimed that they were just like French fries, but healthier. I did agree with the fact that they were healthier, but after trying several of them, I was not convinced that the oven-baked version was enough crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, like it is in the fried version.
This year for the upcoming Super Bowl weekend, I decided to give it another try. I went back to some of the recipes I tried, and looked for ways to improve them. Along the way I read recipes from some of the fellow food bloggers, my favorite cookbooks, and foodie websites. And after trying a couple of different recipes, I think this recipe came as close to the fried version as possible.
Here is what I learned:
- In order for the fries to be crispy, they have got to be dry. And at this point, pat-drying them with paper towels was just not enough to get a crispy texture on the outside. The solution to this problem was using cornstarch, which helped with absorbing the excess moisture.
- Microwaving the cut potatoes for 5 minutes helped with building a soft and fluffy interior. In addition, doing so jump-started the cooking process, which also shortened the amount of time in the oven.
- Coating fries with cornmeal added to the crispiness, which also gave it a little bit more of crunchiness.
- Preheating some of the oil in a high temperature oven and placing the cut potatoes coated with cornstarch and cornmeal helped with building a crispy exterior.
- I hate admit this, but just like the fried version, they were best when they served warm, right after they came out of the oven.
For this recipe, I swapped some of the vegetable oil with truffle oil to give it a little more flavor and make it more interesting. I used a crinkle cutter to make it fun. And finally, I topped it off with some chopped fresh parsley and Gorgonzola cheese, mainly because I am huge fan of the Gorgonzola cheese and truffle oil combination. With that being said, if you are not a fan or serving for someone vegan, feel free to stick to vegetable oil and omit the cheese.
Oven-Baked Crispy Truffled Fries
- 2 large 16 ounces each russet potatoes, peeled and 1/2 inch thick pieces
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 +1 tablespoons truffle oil divided – (I used white truffle oil)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons or more crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (optional)
- Place the oven rack in the lowest position and pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Place the potatoes in a bowl, cover tightly with stretch film, and microwave for 5 minutes, shaking the bowl halfway through in order to distribute the steam.*1
- Transfer the potatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer, and pat dry them with paper towel as much as possible. Set aside.
- In the mean time, mix the vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons of the truffle oil and pour it over a (separate) rimmed baking sheet. Place it in the oven and let it heat until it is smoking, 2-3 minutes. *2
- Mix together the cornstarch, 1 tablespoon of the truffle oil, salt, and cornmeal in a large bowl. Add in the potatoes, and give it a gentle stir to ensure they are all coated with the mixture.
- Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet with the hot oil. Place it in the oven, and bake for 25-30 minutes (rotating the potatoes halfway through the baking process), or until they are golden on the outside.
- Transfer them to a large plate; sprinkle with fresh parsley, and Gorgonzola cheese (if using).
- Serve immediately.
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Some of the techniques applied in this recipe is adapted from Cooks Country’s Crispy Oven Fries recipe.
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