For the Love of French Fries

by Erin Child

 As a nutrition student, my unabashed love of French fries may seem out of place. But for me, they are just one delicious part of an otherwise decently balanced diet. They’re my go-to when out at a bar with friends, and my favorite accompaniment to a bowl of steamed mussels. So, I decided to finally try my hand at making some real deep-fried French fries. However, I can’t in good conscience let this story be all be about deep-fried food. And so, I also made a batch of oven fries to compare to the deep-fried originals. I recruited a couple Friedman friends to taste test, and we had a delicious Fry-day night.

The first time I attempted deep frying I wound up with second-degree burns. My college roommate and I had decided to make fried chicken for our then-boyfriends in our closet-sized kitchen. The moment I bent down to check on the root vegetables roasting in the oven, my roommate chucked the last piece of chicken into the hot oil, splashing it all over the top of my head and hand. Boyfriends arrived an hour later to find me on the floor, forehead covered in aloe and my hand in a pot of cool water. Never again, I vowed, would I deep fry anything. Leave that to the professionals.

A decade later, I have mostly kept my promise. I can count on one hand the number of times I have fried something, and it has always been using a relatively safe, contained, counter-top fryer. I’ve made donuts, pakora (an Indian snack food), and Flamin’ Hot Cheeto®–crusted chicken. (You read that right.) But I still have never attempted one of my all-time favorite foods, French fries.

Before my deep-fried adventures began, I did some shopping. I ordered a thermometer and splatter screen from Amazon for $25.81 worth of safety precautions. I then did some research. I consulted Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, and Serious Eats, and found that both recommend the double-fry method for crispy goodness. I had hoped to find a way to avoid deep-frying twice, but couldn’t find any source to persuade me that one fry was sufficient for the texture I desired. Smitten Kitchen had a recipe for single-fried fries, but I was not convinced; however, I did follow the recommendation of using Yukon Gold potatoes instead of regular Russets. They have similar starch content, and thus are both good for frying. And I liked the idea that because of their yellow color, Yukon Golds have more carotenoids, and thus were a smidge healthier. (But the potatoes were going to be fried, so who am I kidding.) For the oven fries I found a recipe on Eating Well that looked promising and instead used that as my reference for my “healthy” fries.

The day of my adventure, I purchased ten pounds (about five pounds too many) of Yukon Golds, as well as peanut oil and dried parsley—for a dash of green—at my local supermarket. The peanut oil was for frying, as everything I read kept pointing to peanut oil as the ideal oil due to its high smoke point. I already had salt, olive oil and ketchup at home. I was ready.

First, I rinsed and chopped five pounds of potatoes into relatively even batons. My knife skills are passable at best, so following the instructions found on Smitten Kitchen I was able to cut reasonably evenly sized fries. Recipes all recommended drying the potatoes first to ensure maximum contact with the oil—so I spread them out over paper towels. All told, almost an entire roll of paper towels was used in my frying adventure.

french fries evenly cut

My attempt at evenly cut fries (pretty good!) Photo: Erin Child

While the fries dried, I turned the oven on to 450˚F and then poured 4 1/3 cups of peanut oil into a heavy-bottomed pot before turning the burner to medium-high. I placed the thermometer into the pot and watched as the temperature slowly climbed to 325˚F. While I waited, I made the oven fries.

I dressed two and a half pounds of the potato batons with four tablespoons of olive oil, a heaping half teaspoon of salt, a half teaspoon of ground thyme, and enough parsley flakes to fleck them all with green. The potatoes went on an unlined baking sheet and into the 450˚F oven. Per the Eating Well instructions, the fries would need to be flipped after ten minutes. When I went to flip the fries, they all stuck to the pan. Panicked, I left them in for another five minutes. When I checked them again, the starches in the potatoes must have shifted, because the fries were golden-brown on the bottom and easy to flip. I left them in for another eight minutes. At this point, most of the fries had two golden-brown sides, so I pulled them from the oven. Once they were cooled enough, my friends and I dug in.

They required more salt than was in the recipe, and they were not crisp, but the flavor was good. As one friend put it, “they taste like a bite-sized baked potato.” Savory and satisfying, but not really a French fry. Next time I try oven fries (and there will be a next time) I may try hand-rotating them to get a better, crispier sear on each side and make them taste closer to the real (fried) thing.

At this point, my peanut oil was ready to go. The double-fry recommendations were to fry once at 325˚F for about 8-10 minutes, let the fries rest, and then fry again at 375˚F for 3-4 minutes. So, I put the full 2.5 pounds of potatoes in the oil. That was my first mistake. The pot was too small for all those potatoes, and the temperature dropped to below 200˚F. For the next ten minutes I essentially gave all the potatoes a warm oil bath. After nothing was noticeably frying, I took all the potatoes out and tried again. This time, I fried them in two batches at 325˚F for 10 minutes. Then increased the temperature of the oil to 375˚F. To my surprise, I did not need the splatter screen. At all. If I was mindful of my movements there was minimal splash back, and the hot oil did not splatter out of the pan during frying.

french fries frying

Warming up for the second attempt. Photo: Erin Child

The second fry at 375˚F also occurred in two batches, and was three minutes per batch. After removing them from the pot, I immediately tossed the fries in a liberal dash of salt. Crispy, golden, salty and warm—they were the clear winner of the evening. Not too shabby for my first batch of French fries.

oven fries and french fries

Oven fries (left) vs French fries (right). Photo: Erin Child

During clean up, I decided to remeasure the peanut oil, and found that I had four cups left. This mean than a third-cup went into the French fries. This is only about one more tablespoon of oil than I used for the oven fries, which was a smaller difference than I expected.

Overall, nothing quite beats the taste and texture of a fried French fry, but for my health and wallet (all that peanut oil was expensive!), I’ll keep homemade French fries to a very occasional treat.

Erin Child is a second year NICBC student in the dual MS-DPD program. She is also the social media editor for the Sprout. At this point in the semester she is frequently procrasti-cooking and cleaning—her belly is full, her room is spotless, and she always has a paper to write.

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If Vitamins Were Celebrities

by Emily Finnan, RD LDN

Vitamins have received so much media play lately you’d think they were celebrities. But what if vitamins really were celebrities? Would they be the troubled reality star or the all-American movie hero? Read on for our take!

Vitamin D

The current star of the nutrition world, vitamin D has been touted to play a beneficial role in seemingly everything from osteoporosis, some types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, congestive heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis, and more (see Melissa Hudec’s December article in The Sprout for more info). Vitamin D research is hot and trendy much like…

JENNIFER LAWERENCE. She gained superstardom from starring in 2012’s The Hunger Games. From winning an Oscar to her adorable red carpet stumble, America is in love. Forbes even named her the most powerful actress in 2014. However, vitamin D research is still emerging, and Jennifer Lawrence’s blockbuster franchise is ongoing. Time will tell if they will both remain in the spotlight.

Vitamin E

This vitamin’s past reminds us of vitamin D’s stardom. In the 1980s, this antioxidant was thought to be the magic nutrient for conditions like cancer, atherosclerosis, vision loss, and heart disease; though further research did not support this. In some cases even negative effects were shown at large doses. However, this vitamin sprung back into the media recently due to a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial showing an association between large-dose supplements and a reduction in functional decline for those with Alzheimer’s disease (3). This vitamin’s comeback reminds us of…

MADONNA. Becoming the 80s pop queen with her 1984 hit album Like a Virgin, she revolutionized fashion and women’s role in pop. Madonna has released other albums since, but nothing has compared to her initial celebrity status. Madonna is set to have a new album, Rebel Heart, released this year, so perhaps she too will have a comeback.

Vitamin A

You have a choice with vitamin A: preformed, found in animals and supplements, or provitamin A, found in plants pigments. The most well-known provitamin A is beta-carotene, found in orange and dark green vegetables and fruits. Excess doses of preformed vitamin A, usually from supplements, may lead to serious liver damage. Yet excess beta-carotene can also cause a harmless, though maybe hilarious, orange pigmented skin much like…

SNOOKI, or Nicole Polizzi. Though her orange hue is the result of too much spray tan, rather than excessive intake of beta-carotene, both are harmless and will dissipate over time.

Vitamin K

Present in high amounts in leafy greens, a vitamin K deficiency may result in the blood’s decreased ability to clot. This could result in nosebleeds, bleeding gums, and cuts that take longer to stop bleeding. This would be a problem for most people except for…

ROBERT PATTINSON. He will forever be remembered as Edward Cullen, the hunky vampire from the Twilight series. His character would surely revel in a vitamin K-deficient person, what with all of that easily-accessible blood – YUM. Although deficiencies aren’t common, avoid satisfying Edward, and eat your leafy greens!

Vitamin C

This vitamin is best known for its presence in citrus fruits and its alleged ability to “cure” the common cold. Well, that wishful thinking has not held up in clinical trials, but it stems from the true power of vitamin C as an antioxidant and its role in immune functions. Despite this, Americans still swoon for vitamin C supplements and continue to take mega-doses during flu season. It seems we simply cannot get enough, much like…

TAYLOR SWIFT. This 25-year-old singer/songwriter has been topping the charts since her days as a teenage country star. With seven Grammys to her name, she is the only singer to have three albums selling more than a million copies in their debut week. Just like with Taylor Swift, it’s possible to overdose on vitamin C. Excess intake may lead to gastrointestinal upset, headaches, and kidney stones. What about too much Taylor? Attending concerts and buying all those albums gets expensive!

The B vitamins

This family of eight encompasses a variety of important functions including macronutrient metabolism. Excessive intakes generally have minimal side effects, much like THE KARDASHIAN FAMILY. This group of eight is everywhere, be it on television, over social media, and in celebrity news. Thankfully no side effects have been reported yet…

  • Thiamine (vitamin B1)

Thiamine is found in a variety of foods, with pork and fortified grains being especially great sources. It is the number one B vitamin, just like KRIS JENNER is the first Kardashian. As the mother of the group we wouldn’t know any of these famous faces if it wasn’t for her.

  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)

This is a major player in making energy for the cell via the electron transport chain (ETC). The ETC occurs in the mitochondria, and the cell works very hard to keep it going. This reminds us of KENDALL JENNER. She is the only one of the family who is currently working at something other than being famous: through a successful modeling career.

  • Niacin (vitamin B3)

Unlike with the other B-vitamins, there is a quick-reacting side effect to excess intakes of niacin known as niacin flush. This typically happens after high-dose supplementation and causes blood capillaries in the face to dilate, resulting in a blush and warm feeling. Perhaps this is the culprit behind KYLIE JENNER’s new pouty lips? Likely not. (8, 9)

Kylie

  • Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5)

Pantothenic Acid forms a part of the coenzymes used in many metabolic reactions. Very little attention has been paid to it in scientific research and the media much like ROB KARDASHIAN. Whomp, Whomp.

  • Pyridoxine (vitamin B6 )

This vitamin is necessary in many reactions including the creation of neurotransmitters like serotonin, and a serotonin imbalance has been linked to depression. This is the opposite of KHLOE KARDASHIAN. The jokester of the family, she’s guaranteed to turn any Kardashian pucker into a smile.

  • Biotin (vitamin B7)

Biotin is abundant in the foods we eat, so deficiency is uncommon. You probably don’t need to seek out biotin, much like KIM KARDASHIAN. She’s everywhere, and you probably don’t need to see more. Biotin and Kim also share a startling resemblance…

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  • Folate (vitamin B9)

Folate is necessary for a growing fetus, and inadequate amounts may lead to spina bifida, a debilitating birth defect. Getting enough folate probably wasn’t an issue for KOURTNEY KARDASHIAN. With three healthy children she probably consumed her fair share of folate-rich foods like leafy greens and fortified grains.

Kourtney-Kardashian-pictures-847x1024

 

  • Cobalamin (vitamin B12)

Certain populations are at increased risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, particularly the elderly. Maybe BRUCE JENNER, the elder of the family at age 65, should consider the possibility of a deficiency should he show signs and symptoms like fatigue, pale skin, and easily bruising or bleeding.

Emily Finnan is a first-year biochemical and molecular nutrition student. In her time off from school and working as a pediatric dietitian she enjoys cooking and watching critically-acclaimed documentaries along with the latest realty television shows.