Is there anything better than homemade French fries? If your answer is yes then you’ve probably never tried Cuban papas fritas. Some like them cut in thick batons, others grew up eating them like thin matchsticks or cut in thin rounds. It probably depended on how much time and patience your grandmother had to cut them up. Either style was delicious.
Like white rice, home made French fries were a weekly staple at the Cuban table. The only way a French fry can get better is dragged in the juices of a palomilla steak for the classic bistec con papas fritas or dipped into the yolk of a fried egg. There really isn’t anything better than that!
My grandmother, Abuela Oliva and my great Aunt, Madrina Teresa were the dynamic duo of French fries. One would peal. The other would cut them free hand. Some were thicker than others. Then they would start slicing them like a well-oiled machine. It was always in the same pale green bowl with the one sharp knife she owned.
They were crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. My favorite part were the ends in weird shapes that always had a thick part and a super crispy thin edge. Papa perfection!Ani
So how did they do it? No she didn’t fry them twice like the French. She would soak them in salted water- for hours! She would drain them a few times and continue to soak them. She would switch out the water so they were never sitting in cloudy starchy water. Then when it came time to fry them, she would only put in a small amount at a time, allowing the potatoes to swim freely in the oil. Even if she had 10 potatoes to fry, she did it in small batches. That level of restraint and care was present in every single fry.
When she was older and barely cooking I asked her for the recipe of papas fritas. She basically laughed in my face. “Escribe ahi. Papas, aciete y sal. Papas fritas no necesitan una receta, necesitan paciencia.”Ani
No recipe, only patience, she said.
So although we wouldn’t dare argue with any Cuban Abuela that patience is key, here are some tips and our step by step process of how to get close to making the perfect papas fritas.
Our Papas Fritas Tips:
- Never put your potatoes in the fridge. The starch intensifies and this makes it difficult for them to crisp up.
- As you peel the potatoes keep them in salted water. This will ensure they do not oxidize and this is the secret to stripping them from the starch. Less starch, yields a crispier potato.
- As they come out of the oil, sprinkle with salt. The salt will stick more to the fresh oil.
- How many potatoes should you fry up? Calculate for about 1 potato per person.
- If you don’t have the time to soak your potatoes for hours, at least soak them while you cut them. It will take away the initial layer of starch.
- The best tool to remove potatoes from the oil is a mesh spider or skimmer.
Papitas Fritas (French Fries)Course: SidesCuisine: Cuban/AmericanDifficulty: Easy
4 potatoes, peeled, sliced, julienned and soaked (you can use russet, Yukon gold or red bliss)
2-3 cups of oil (you can use olive oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil or peanut oil)
- Once the potatoes are peeled and cut soak them in a bowl with salted water. Soak them for as much time as you have. If you have a few hours it is ideal. About every 30 minutes change out the water to remove the starch around the potatoes.
- When you are ready to start frying, dry the potatoes with a thick dish towel.
Line a plate with paper towel and set aside near the frying pan. You will use this to drain the potatoes.
- Add 2 cups of oil to the frying pan. Be sure the oil is about halfway up the pan. Remember, once you put in the potatoes the oil will rise. Give the oil and potatoes plenty of room in the pan.
- Heat the oil to medium. If you have a thermometer it should be about 350-360 degrees. If you don’t, add in a piece of a French fry (the sacrificial potato) and once it starts to sizzle, the oil is ready. Don’t over crowd the pan.
- Once you place them in the oil move them around immediately. They should be floating in the oil. Give them time. If you pull them out too early they will be raw on the inside and get soggy very quickly.
- Work in batches, salting the potatoes as they come out of the oil. If you place them on a wire rack keep the first batches in a 275 degree oven. Serve hot!