I made Rachel Ray's Cajun Oven Fries recipe tonight as recommended on this post and while I will be making them again I will be changing a few things. Okay, quite a few things.
I like light, fluffy and crispy fries that will stay crispy from the first one out oven to the last bite of the last one on the plate and these would not get crispy even though I prepared the potatoes ahead of time and pretty much cooked them way longer than they should have taken.
What I used.
2 medium potatoes prepared for frying and cut into wedges.
2 Tables spoons of cayenne pepper sauce
1 teaspoon each of:
Hungarian "Hot" Paprika (should be called smokey, not hot)
Fire roasted habanero flakes.
1 1/4 teaspoon Whole leaf thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon Whole Cumin seeds
(each equals 1 teaspoon once ground)
Threw the thyme and cumin in a coffee grinder and ground to a powder.
Mixed all together.
2 1/2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher flake salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
I only used 2 small golden potatoes so I only used part of the mix. I used the rest as a dipping sauce. A ranch dressing was recommended but IMO using ranch dressings, bleu cheese, sour cream or anything intended to subdue the heat would be akin to bringing your MIL along on your honeymoon. The sauce lacked complexity so I added a splash of dark sesame oil and it made a huge difference although moved closer to more of an Asian flavor.
I started with 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil mixed with the spice mix , tossed the taters and ended up adding another.
I put them in the 450 oven and set the time for 10 min. At the ten minute mark the plain ones (sunflower oil) were already crispy and the cajun ones were still rather soggy. I flipped them over. I repeated this process twice for a total of thirty minutes. I removed the plain ones and got the rest of dinner on the plates and left the cajun ones in for about another 7 mins. They never got crispy. I attribute this to the vinegar in the pepper sauce in addition to the high heat that broke the oil down too quickly.
I cooked the first batch (one potato) on foil as I had to cook some plain ones at the same time so I did the second one directly on the pan and the results were the same although this time the oil on the pan began to smoke. Luckily my smoke detector only goes off when boiling water and not when smoke is billowing from the oven.
In the area of:
Very easy to prepare. However missing an important step in preparation and IMO the prep in the recipe was for roasted potatoes.
Heat Factor: 8/10
Credit goes to Robin G. for the addition of 1 teaspoon of habanero I was thinking these were going to be good and toasty but the vinegar in the pepper sauce, high heat combined with long cooking time toned it down considerably.
Rather bland and boring. Something I'd expect to find at Applebee's or Olive Garden If I were to ever look for something, other than the exit, there.
The plain fries I made (sunflower oil) were really nice and crispy in about twenty minutes yet the cajun fries never even got crispy after 37 minutes and I started with potatoes that were already light and fluffy. There is a difference between crispy and crusty. All I got was crusty on the "cajun" fries so starting with a raw potato that is about the best you can expect. A crusty roasted potato.
I will say However, that I am glad I tried this recipe because I learned a new technique. I usually deep fry in a cast iron dutch oven avoiding oven fries like the plague, especially the spicy ones with all the msg and whatnot, but I now see them in whole new light. I was searching for an easy side to a sandwich style benefit gathering and I think these will do the trick with a few alterations.
What I would do differently.
Use a different oil. Real Extra Virgin Olive Oil is almost impossible to find outside specialty shops or mail-order, is expensive and IMO it's not really worth using with all the peppers, cumin and high heat. I would use sunflower, pure peanut or the like and if you want a flavored oil a dark sesame or something along those lines. Two parts SF to 1 part DS should be plenty strong possibly even too. Beef tallow is probably what I will try next time. Easy to make, inexpensive tastes great. I'll save the EVOO for when the delicate flavor of the oil is what I am looking for like some nice crispy macaroni and cheese.
I would omit the cayenne pepper sauce altogether opting instead for a tastier dry blend with some more flavor. Being that you will lose the one element of the flavor in this recipe with the omission of the pepper sauce you could toss them with some vinegar and let them rest a bit to allow the potato to absorb it before coating them with oil. This will also help to prevent the potato from absorbing too much oil and maintain it's crispness a bit longer. However when using a better blend of dried spices you will not miss it at all.
As for cooking I would simply coat the wedges with oil or tallow and nothing else, place in oven for about 6 minutes. Flip them, cook another 6. Dump them into a mixing bowl, add dry mix and toss till they are well coated, toss them back on the baking sheet and cook for about another 10 minutes flipping them 1/2 way. This will liven up the spices and not cook the flavor and heat out of them.
Well I used up the rest of the potatoes that I prepared the other night and gave oven frying another go. I am now an oven fry aficionado. Did you here that crunch? No... that wasn't me taking a bite it was the sound of me dislocating my shoulder as I patted myself on the back. Okay, maybe not quite an aficionado although the enthusiasm is there but I'm certainly on my way to qualify as Chief Chili Fry Maker.
Tonight I tossed five small potatoes in about one and one half tablespoons of peanut oil. So I highly recommend the sunflower oil instead. I will update when I try them with tallow. Once again I made plain ones and seasoned. I was in a hurry so I did not follow my own recommendation and seasoned the frues before partially crisping them first. The seasoning I used did contain salt so even though they crisped up nicely they weren't the best they could have been.
I do like crispy fries so I will bake them at ten minutes per side season them on the pan, cook for another 5 or so flip and season the other side cook another 5 or till finished.
Another important tip is not to coat fries with oil until the oven is heated and you are ready to put them in.