Crispy Oven Fries
Originally published March 2014
The kids are snuggled in their beds, fast asleep. Much as I should be in bed, too, I'm wide-eyed after a cat nap. It's become part of Virginia's bedtime routine. After we read books, I usually curl up with her, to help her fall into a peaceful slumber. This wasn't always our pattern; certainly not when Michael was alive. Then again, I was always firm about bedtime, knowing that a cuddle on the couch was my reward after a long day. The daytime was all about the girls. Nighttime was a standing date with my guy to catch up on our day, relax, and enjoy curling up in the corner of our L-shaped sofa together.
When we first started dating, the corner was his throne. I'd sprawl myself across the longer end, and rest my head in his lap, waiting like a cat to be stroked across the temples and forehead. Somewhere along the way, the tables turned, but not quite equitably. Michael relinquished the corner, and instead of soothing my headache of the day away, he'd scoop up my feet in his lap, and rub away the aches of standing all day long in the kitchen.
Lately, my longing for him is insatiable, but at the same time, something incredible has happened in sorting through my journals from the last 948 days. In reflecting back on our life together, I'm finding the anger is slowly slipping away, being replaced by thankfulness for having had the time we did together. It is moving at a glacial pace, and a transition I'm finally accepting will last the rest of my life. Much as I wish the mourning process was finite, it is not. It is a weight one must juggle like a hot coal, almost. I don't know if the coal gets cooler, and more manageable at times, or if one just gets better at the juggle itself. I suppose it's a bit of both.
One way I try to reconnect to him, and the happier times we shared, is by revisiting some of my older recipes. They're literary, and sometimes literally, breadcrumbs that connect what I love to do, with those I love. That's what brought me into the kitchen to make an old favorite, crispy oven fries, a couple of months ago. Sliders were on the menu for dinner. The kids are day and night when it comes to almost everything. Virginia loves mashed potatoes. Isabella only loves fries, and only real French fries. Could I possibly find a common ground?
Then I remembered crispy oven fries I first wrote about four years ago. I should mention it's one of those "telephone" recipes, shared from blog to blog, with the steps changing a little each time. The original recipe is for garlicky baked fries. The seasoning was a definite no-go for my girls, even back then, so I went for a classic sea salted version. They were also microwaved to par-cook them before baking. Shaheen mixed things up, and par-boiled them to eliminate the microwave when she wrote about them. By time the recipe made its way to my kitchen, I decided to nix both of those methods, wondering if I could just par-cook them in the oven while it was preheating. Success!
The important thing to remember with this recipe is that you must not skip the two-part cooking method. The par-cooking ensures the inside cooks thoroughly, while the blast of high heat crisps up the outside perfectly. On this last pass, I decided to make a shoestring version—I only wish I'd thought to make that tweak when M was here to taste them! I also cut back a bit on the cornstarch (the other secret to getting them super-crisp). Next up, I'd love to try these with sweet potatoes. If anyone gives that a shot, please let me know.
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