Everyone has their own Platonic ideal of the fry. Whether you like yours shoestring or hefty, baked or fried, you don't need a separate recipe for every iteration. Just pick out some good—preferably Russet—potatoes, and get to it:
So that's the how, but what about the why? Must we freeze fries, and what's with the blanching? Every step has a purpose:
Why do you soak the potatoes in water?
Soaking sucks starch from the center to the skin of the tater, helping fries get crispy and preventing them from sticking together. Some claim just a few minutes in lukewarm water works. Others claim overnight in cold water is best. I prefer the latter.
Why add vinegar to the water?
It speeds starch extraction and delays browning—helps make fries crispier, in other words. Why blanch the fries?
Blanching precooks and removes the bite of the starch flavor.
Why freeze the blanched cuts?
This is, technically, part of the blanching process: heating and then immediately cooling. Cuts can be cooled on a tray until they’re room temperature, in a fridge until they’re cold, or in a freezer until they’re frozen.
Excerpt from Fries! by Blake Lingle, published by Princeton Architectural Press (2016)
Are you more of a shoestring, steak, or curly fry kind of person? Tell us in the comments!