The short version of fried potatoes: They are good
The slightly longer version of fried potatoes
There are many ways to fry potatoes. They are all wonderful. Even when poorly prepared, they tend to be tasty. When done well, they are amazing.
The full version of fried potatoes
There is something about potatoes cooked in oil. I mean, most fried food can be good, even excellent, but can also be bad. Humans have tried frying nearly everything. We fry cheese (mozzarella en carozza) and dough (funnel cakes, zeppole). Frying cheese, i have to admit, is a magnificent idea. Cook fat in fat! But it can go very wrong, turning into a gummy mass of inedible goo. Frying dough is also a stroke of genius, but …. well, fresh hot funnel cakes are fantastic, but cold or soggy ones … blech.
We fry every kind of meat, most famously, fried chicken. Good fried chicken is an epiphany. It is like an orgasm in your mouth. The hot crispy crunch crust tied to the juicy meaty chicken, fully cooked but still tender. Wow. But the garbage they serve at fast food places is disgusting, with the dough sliding off the chicken, which is somehow both dry and greasy, while the dough is mass of congealed glop.
But fried potatoes! There are so many versions! Because – frying potatoes is just plain good.
Three of the most glorious of fried potato recipes are the French fry, the home fry, and the potato pancake.
The French fry
Iconic in America is what we call (who knows why) French fries and serve them (most often) with hamburgers. The English call them chips and serve them with fish. The French call them frites and serve them with steak or mussels.. They are stunning. A french fry, of course, is a julienne sliced potato cooked in deep fat until crispy. Ideally, there is a thin, crunchy golden brown exterior surrounding a luscious, hot doughy core.
The best French fries I have ever eaten were made in Belgium. In a stunning act of culinary genius, the Belgians fry the potatoes twice.
Here is what goes well on french fries: Everything that people have thought to put on them.
We Americans tend to put ketchup. Wonderful The Brits sprinkle them with vinegar. Also very good, but best if sprinkled a little at a time, so they don’t get soggy. The Belgians serve them with an array of sauces. To sit, with a cone of fries and an assortment of dipping sauces is an act of pure glorious hedonism. Mayonnaise? I’ll try that! Delicious! Curry sauce? GOOD. Mustard? Good. Hot sauce? Of course. Aioli? OH well, good grief! Aioli would make a brick taste good!
Typically served at breakfast, but good any time, home fries are sliced potatoes, cooked in hot shallow oil, with sliced onions. OK. First of all, potatoes go with onions the way Fred Astaire goes with Ginger Rogers. They dance in your mouth, the sharp sweetness of the onion and the solid substantialness of the potato. Second is that they are often served with bacon. Bacon has bacon fat, and bacon fat tastes good. Often they are served with eggs as well, and breaking the yolk of a nicely fried egg over a pile of home fries, topped with a slice (or two, or three or …) of bacon….. AH……
Yes, the home fry belongs in the pantheon of potato perfection
Latkes, aka potato pancakes
In a potato pancake, the potatoes are grated, mixed with other ingredients (typically egg and onion and spices) formed into smallish pancake shapes, and fried.
If you live in America, you’ve almost certainly eaten French fries, and very likely home fries. But you might not have eaten potato pancakes. You need to do so. SOON. But get good ones. Given the culinary state of America, this still means either coming to a big city and eating in a good deli, or making your own. Bad latkes are, of course, better than no latkes. But good ones …. hot, crispy at the edge, with the middle just cooked……
Latkes are typically served with either sour cream or apple sauce. Either way, they are great.