Hot. Salty. Crispy. The French Fry is as simple a culinary treasure as it is delicious. Sure, you can tart it up with truffle oil, but you can also just stuff the greasy, fast food version into your mouth with equal pleasure (plus a generous heaping of shame). And for something named after another culture, the French Fry is quintessentially American. It is good-natured, endearing, and, like our great nation, liable to make you fat and unhealthy. Unless you do something about it. So keep reading.
Behold the Humble Potato. We hear all the time that French fries will punish our arteries like Christian Grey. But don’t blame the potato itself. It’s actually fairly nutritious. In fact, a USDA study identified 60 different vitamins and phytochemicals in potatoes, rivaling brussels sprouts, spinach and blueberries. It’s really only when you drop the potatoes in trans-fat-filled oils that things go south nutritionally. Trans fats, according to the Mayo Clinic, are “considered by many doctors to be the worst type of fat you can eat.” Here’s one reason why: They jack up your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and drop your HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
So I Can Just Eat Fries? Not yet. First, switch oils. High-oleic (a.k.a. trans-fat-free) oils such as canola, sunflower/safflower, peanut or corn work just as well for frying, while still providing some health benefits—e.g., being high in polyunsaturated fats that help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Second, consider switching potatoes. Russet potatoes are more nutritious than you think, but sweet potatoes are even better. They come filled with vitamins—E, A and C to be exact, which, respectively, help ward off cancer, keep your teeth, eyes, bones and skin healthy and boost your immunity. They’re also loaded with potassium (good for your heart and the other muscles in your body) and loads of fiber (good to keep you, well, keep you regular).
In Case You Want to Live Past 65. If you really want to be smart about it, you should skip the deep fryer completely. No matter how healthy the oil, you’re still frying your spuds. Instead, bake them in the oven, after lightly tossing them in extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil to mimic that crispy savoriness. Get started with this easy recipe from chef Jeff Mahin of Chicago’s Summer House restaurants, where Mahin often features these fries on the California-influenced menu.
- 2-3 sweet potatoes
- 2-3 tablespoons potato starch (or cornstarch)
- 1-2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
- 1-2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
- Pre-heat oven to 425F.
- Cut sweet potatoes into ¼-inch sticks as uniformly as possible.
- Toss sweet potatoes with potato starch in a large bowl until evenly coated.
- Place the sweet potato fries on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Drizzle the fries with grapeseed oil and lightly toss to coat evenly.
- Spread out fries on the lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Give the baking sheet a shake to move the fries and bake for 5 minutes longer.
- Place the cooked fries in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt, bouillon and chili powder.
- Toss the fries in the bowl and serve immediately.