Yesterday I got laid off. I started this job in grad school and it’s been my safety net for a long time. When I worked at the library and layoffs were looming, I knew that if the worst happened, I always had this job. And when I started doing taxonomy work, this job was the steady income I needed to make freelancing a little less scary.
Losing your safety net is a pretty awful feeling. As much as I’ve contemplated quitting this job over the past few months (and oh, I thought of it often!), I could never really bring myself to do it. But maybe having a safety net was holding me back and keeping me from doing the things that I want to be doing. Like
watching Real Housewives marathons all day in my pajamas while quietly weeping recipe development and blogging. And making Garlicky Oven Fries with Harissa Ketchup!
Typically I make oven fries the lazy way–I cut a potato into wedges, toss them with oil, and throw them on a baking sheet. Easy peasy. The wedges never get quite as crispy as they would if they were deep-fried, but that’s kind of what you expect with oven fries. They’re not crispy! They’re a little bit limp! But they’re healthier for you and that’s the trade-off you have to make. After hearing that Cook’s Illustrated had a recipe for crispy oven fries, I thought I’d give it a try. And guess what? They were crispy! Definitely crispier than my usual method.
I did make a few changes to their recipe–I used garlic-infused oil and I used a much less of it than the original recipe called for. If you’re cheap like I am, you probably avoid recipes with garlic oil. I can never justify buying a big bottle of oil when I know it will probably go rancid before I get around to using it all! And while you can make your own infused oils, that takes some time. Here’s how you can cheat and speed up the process:
Use one large garlic clove for each tablespoon of oil. So, for this recipe, you’d use two garlic cloves and two tablespoons of oil. Mince the garlic cloves with a garlic press; if you don’t have a garlic press, smash the cloves with the back of a knife. But the garlic press is best! Put the garlic in oil and let it sit for as long as you can, then remove the garlic with a fork. And now you have garlic-infused oil!
Of course, you can’t have fries without ketchup. While I’ve made my own ketchups from scratch in the past, this one is a little bit easier–store-bought ketchup + harissa. Harissa is a spicy Tunisian chili sauce. You can make it yourself if you can’t find it at the store or, failing that, simply spike your ketchup with a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Oven fries that are actually crispy? Yes, it is possible! I used the Cook's Illustrated method for making baked fries and infused garlic into the oil. Pairing the fries with Harissa Ketchup makes this everyday side dish something special.
- 3 tbsp. vegetable, peanut or canola oil, divided
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 large Russet potatoes, cut into evenly sized wedges (I prefer leaving the skin on)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/3 c. ketchup
- 1 tsp. harissa (more or less depending on how much heat you can tolerate)
- Adjust oven rack to lowest position and preheat to 475 degrees. Place minced garlic cloves in a small bowl and pour in 2 tablespoons of oil. Set aside.
- Place potato wedges in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Let potatoes sit in water for 10 minutes. Drain and dry thoroughly with paper towels. (Very thoroughly! This is important.) Rinse and wipe out bowl.
- Grease a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with remaining tablespoon of oil. Return potato wedges to bowl. Use a fork to remove the garlic from the oil; discard garlic. Drizzle oil over potatoes and toss to coat.
- Arrange potato wedges on baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tightly cover baking sheet with foil; bake 5 minutes. Remove foil, then bake 10-15 minutes or until bottoms of fries are golden brown. Use a spatula or tongs to flip each wedge, then cook 5-10 minutes more until fries are browned.
- While fries are baking, make harissa ketchup by stirring together ketchup and harissa in a small bowl.