Backyard BBQ

Fully Loaded Cheese Fries With Ranch Seasoning

May  8, 2023
0 Ratings
Photo by MJ Kroeger
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

These are the loaded cheese fries of boardwalk strolls, baseball games, and other fun summertime memories. Taking a cue from some of my favorite nacho recipes, these cheese fries are topped with bright, crunchy, and punchy toppings, like pickled hot banana peppers, radishes, and scallions. The packet of ranch is key: While I’m not always a fan of the dressing, I can get behind the brilliance of the concentrated seasoning packet. Its application here as a one-stop shop power seasoning for the fries—while also flavoring the sour cream—is what sets this recipe apart.

If you have any leftover cheese sauce, use it to top anything from baked potatoes to roasted broccoli. Grate the cheese from a block, and avoid the bagged, shredded stuff if you can. (With pre-grated cheese, more surface area is exposed to air for a longer time, causing it to dry out.) Build your fries like you might a tray of nachos, layering fries, cheese, and sturdier toppings as you go, and leaving the lighter herbs and veg for the very top, so they remain nice and crisp. —Anna Billingskog

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is a part of Cheese Week—seven days of recipes and stories, all cheese—presented by our friends at Proudly Wisconsin Cheese. —Food52

What You'll Need
  • For the cheese fries:
  • 1 (28-ounce) bag frozen French fries (use your favorite shape, just make sure they’re not already seasoned)
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar, grated on the large side of a box grater
  • 4 ounces Monterey Jack or Colby cheese, grated on the large side of a box grater
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • Whole milk, as needed (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 (1-ounce) packet ranch dip mix, divided
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • For the toppings:
  • 4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup pickled hot banana pepper rings, plus more to taste
  • 3 to 4 small, red radishes, thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced (use the white and green parts)
  1. Start baking the fries: Heat the oven and bake your fries according to the package's instructions. Make sure to spread out the fries in an even, single layer without too much crowding for maximum crispness; use two sheet pans, if needed. (I choose not to lay parchment down as I feel it impedes the crisping process, but if it’s as must for you, please do.)
  2. Make the cheese sauce: Toss the grated cheeses with cornstarch and cayenne in a bowl, then transfer to a saucepan set over medium-low heat. Slowly add the evaporated milk and bring the mixture to a bubble, stirring often—use a whisk at first, and once the cheese is melted, switch to a heat-proof spatula. (The spatula is your friend here to help scrape the bottom and corners of the pan so your cheese sauce doesn’t stick or burn.)
  3. Let the sauce bubble away, stirring often, until it thickens, about 5 to 8 minutes. The cheese sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of the spatula (note: it will continue to thicken as it cools). Taste for seasoning, adding more cayenne or thinning with 1 tablespoon of whole milk at a time to get to your desired spice level and consistency. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
  4. Prepare the ranch dip: Combine 2 tablespoons ranch dip seasoning with the sour cream and set aside (chill in the refrigerator if you make this ahead of time). Reserve the remaining ranch dip seasoning.
  5. When the fries are golden, crispy, and hot, remove them from the oven and sprinkle the reserved ranch dip seasoning over top. Lightly toss with tongs or a spatula to evenly coat the fries in the seasoning. Taste one (pretty good, right?).
  6. Build the cheese fries: I like to build my loaded cheese fries on the sheet tray(s) they were baked on—it saves a dish to wash, and keeps things relatively warm. Start with half of your fries and drizzle ⅓ to ½ of the cheese sauce over the top. Sprinkle half of the crumbled bacon and a few of the banana peppers over the cheesy fries. Top with the remaining fries and spoon over the remainder of the cheese sauce (or as much or as little as you like). Top with the remaining bacon, generous dollops of the ranch dip, banana pepper rings, radishes, and scallions in whichever order works best for you. Dig in and enjoy. The ranch dip and cheese sauce will keep in the fridge tightly covered for up to 5 days. To re-warm the cheese sauce, microwave it on high heat in 30-second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until fully melted—or in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until warmed through.

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