There are three keys to getting extra crunchy fried potatoes: First, you've got to cook them for long enough to allow the gluey starch inside the cells to dissolve and work on the cell walls, gluing them into a thicker, more robust shape. Secondly, you've got to heat their surface in order to dehydrate and crisp them. Finally, you have to maximize the surface area, giving the potatoes more places to crisp up.
With french fries, you do this by parboiling them, then frying them twice. But when I've got a batch of fresh-from-the-dirt new fingerling potatoes in my hands—like I did last night—I prefer to use a different method.
I start by scrubbing the potatoes clean, then placing them in a pot, and covering them with cold, salted water, which I then put on a burner and bring to a boil. By starting the potatoes in cold water, they cook much more evenly, preventing the exterior of the potato from overcooking before the center is finished, as it would be if I started with boiling water. Russian Banana fingerlings like the ones I used here are particularly prone to becoming mushy when overcooked, so I have to keep an eye on them.
After they've cooked through, I allow them to cool just a bit, then split them in half. The exposed surface is slightly sticky and gluey—all the better to crisp up when I fry them—and cooked enough that they get slightly roughened up in the slicing process, increasing the surface area.
Then all that's left is to fry them face down in a little fat until crisp. A bunch of us visited LaBelle Farms on Saturday—a foie gras farm in the Hudson Valley (more on that later)—where I came home with a quart of duck fat. Duck fat and potatoes love each other.
A dish this simple calls for nothing more than a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. (Though some garlicky mayo wouldn't hurt either).
The great thing is that I can boil and slice the potatoes even a day in advance, then all I've got to do is crisp them up right before serving.
Note: If you don't have duck fat, bacon fat, lard, or any other animal fat will work best (more highly saturated fats work better at crisping foods). Otherwise, substitute with peanut or vegetable oil.
- 1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, scrubbed clean
- Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons duck fat (see note)
- Coarse sea salt, like Maldon
Cover potatoes with cold water in a saucepan. Add about 2 tablespoons kosher salt to taste. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are completely tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and allow to cool five minutes.
Split potatoes in half lengthwise. Heat duck fat in 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat until melted. Turn off heat. Add half of potatoes, cut side down. Return to high heat and cook until crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate. Add remaining potatoes to skillet cut-side down and repeat. Serve immediately, sprinkled with coarse sea salt.