Kitchen experiments enliven my brain like not much else. But when I’m reading through a new recipe or about a new technique, the suggestion of deep frying immediately causes me to turn the page. It’s not so much the difficulty – Food52 has a new post that walks you through the frying process – as the a) mess, b) after-smell, and c) waste of that whole bottle of oil (I know, I can use it again…but only if I want to deep fry more things!).
In the end, not deep frying at home serves me perfectly well, health-wise. I only eat fried chicken, fried clams, croquettes, and fish ‘n chips when I’m out, as treats.
Still, I crave French fries far more than any other fried food food–at least once a week. When I’m not in the vicinity of a burger joint, I’ll find a way to satisfy my need for crispy and salty at home without heating up lots of hot oil. Here are a few non-fried alternatives that are pretty damn good.
**Homemade Fixes for French Fry Cravings**
1. Shakin’ Hash Browns. An extra special technique that involves boiling, draining, shaking, and roasting, these potatoes acquire a rough-hewn texture that serves them well in the crispiness department. They might be baked but they don’t look or taste it. (Pictured at top.)
2. Herb and Lemon Buttered Popcorn with Almonds. I think it’s the saltiness that makes popcorn as satisfying as French fries, but popcorn has a serious advantage on fries: you can eat way more of of it before you begin to feel full. This version has great savory additions: herbs, Parmesan, and butter.
3. Roasted Pimenton Chickpeas. These addictive chickpeas make for great party food and even better snacking. By drying the chickpeas well, then tossing them with oil, salt, and spices, you create a crunchy, high-fiber, and satisfying delicacy.
4. Almost-Charred String Beans. I don’t know how many nutrients these string beans retain after you practically scald them in the oven for 20 minutes, but at least they’re less starchy than fries. To make, wash, dry, and trim the beans. Toss with a generous glug of olive oil and a few pinches of salt. Place in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the string beans at 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping once, until shrunken and brown. Sprinkle with a little more salt.
5. Baked Sweet Potato Fries. Because sweet potato fries feel more healthful than regular fries to begin with, I think I’m more accepting of their baked version. I especially love to dip these in chipotle mayo.
6. Crispy Potato Wedges. Using a heavy pan – the one pictured has a core of iron – and a generous pour of olive oil gives these old-fashioned wedges a crispy exterior and an inside that’s nearly creamy. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut 1 baking potato into 12 wedges and toss them with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a couple shakes of smoked paprika. Bake for 20 minutes, then flip and bake 5 minutes more.
7. Black Bean Cakes. A crackly outside gives way to to a soft, spiced, bean-y inside in these darling little bites. A dollop of sour cream replaces French fries’ ketchup for a cool contrast. These are a little more work than the other options, but they’re cheap and presentable.