A couple of weeks ago, Merrill and I made the life-altering decision to order the Breslin's "thrice-cooked" potato chips (fries, in American English). They are, in my view, the ideal fry. They have a surface that crackles when you bite into it, yet is quite chewy. They are sweet yet plenty salty. They smell of pork fat yet are not leaden. And they come with cumin mayo, so what else could you possibly want? Well, a ginger beer -- that's what I like to order with them. I had to try them at home. This version is adapted from Waitrose.com, who adapted it from Heston Blumenthal, the chef at The Fat Duck in England. Instead of frying in lard, I went for a modified version, adding 2 slices of pancetta to a quart of peanut oil. Next time, I'd go all out and fry them in the delicious leaf lard from Flying Pigs Farm, and I'd invite my friends over and have them each bring a dish so I could focus on making the most labor intensive but delicious fries on the planet. —Amanda Hesser
large russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick batons
Place the sliced potatoes in a large pan of cold water and soak for half an hour. This removes excess starch, giving the potatoes a lighter texture.
Rinse and place the potatoes in a pan with cold water seasoned generously with sea salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until you can insert a knife easily through the center of the largest chip. Drain and run the chips under very cold water to prevent further cooking. Place the potatoes back in the pan, cover with a lid and shake the pan vigorously to rough up the edges. Spread the potatoes on a tea towel to dry and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes. You want the potatoes very cold, if not nearly frozen, before you drop them into the hot oil to fry.
Fill a medium saucepan a third full of oil or lard (about 1 quart) and heat it to 270 degrees. If using oil, add the pancetta and cook until crisp; use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta (eat once cool!). Remove the potatoes from the freezer and carefully lower into the hot oil in batches of 8–10, cooking for 4–6 minutes, until they start to color. Drain on paper towel and continue cooking the remaining potatoes before cooling them in the freezer for another 30 minutes. Alternatively, prepare up to this stage a day in advance and leave them in the freezer overnight.
For the final cooking, heat the same oil to 350 degrees and again, lower small batches of the potatoes into it. Cook for 2–3 minutes or until crisp and golden. As they come out of the oil, drain on paper towel and give each batch of fries a good sprinkling of sea salt. Serve with mayonnaise or ketchup and eat while hot.
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.