Savory Oven Fries

This blog post was requested by my dear friend who serves as a missionary in SE Asia. I was happy to oblige her request and searched for a good oven fry recipe. Thank you, Dara @ Cookin' Canuck for this recipe inspiration!

These oven fries proved to be a tastier and more effective method (instead of deep frying) for serving a large crowd at IPC. The results was fantastic, and who can possibly resist crispy, savory fries. And on top of that, they're healthy too!

So here is the recipe you requested, my BFF!

Evenly cut potatoes is the first step to perfect fries. Cut about 1/4" off of long sides of the potato to creating four flat sides for it to firmly sit on the cutting board. Then cut potato into 1/4" or slightly thicker planks. Taking 3 to 4 planks at a time, evenly slice the potatoes into fries, about 18 pieces.

Rinse in cold water. Can be prepared about two hours ahead but soak them in cold water to keep the potatoes from turning gray.

When ready to cook, put cut potatoes in a colander with a large bowl underneath, soak in hot tap water for 10 minutes to remove starch.

Drain potatoes. Spread potatoes out on triple layer of paper towels and thoroughly pat dry with additional paper towels.

Toss with oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. I used peanut oil for flavor but you can use canola, vegetable, or olive oil. Spread evenly on a heavy duty rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Dark coated, non-stick pans without parchment can also be used. Bake in oven at 475 degrees.

In the mean time, toss together chopped parsley, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and finely minced fresh garlic.

After about 20 minutes of baking, using a spatula, carefully turn fries over for even baking. Watch out for escaping steam when opening the oven door!

After about 35-40 minutes, beautifully browned fries emerges. In a large bowl, toss hot fries and parsley-Parmesan cheese mixture. Serve immediately. Sprinkle more kosher salt and pepper as needed.

Print This Recipe

Savory Oven Fries
Recipe Inspired by Dara @ Cookin' Canuck

3 russet potatoes (about 8 ounces each), peeled, each potato cut lengthwise into 16 or so evenly sized wedges
4 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil (other oils can be used as well)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Extra salt & pepper to taste
1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position; heat oven to 475 degrees. Place potatoes in large bowl and cover with hot tap water; soak 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place a sheet of parchment paper to fit 18 by 12-inch heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet

2. Drain potatoes. Spread potatoes out on triple layer of paper towels and thoroughly pat dry with additional paper towels. Rinse and wipe out now-empty bowl; return potatoes to bowl and toss with 4 tablespoon oil and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

3. Arrange potatoes in single layer on prepared baking sheet and bake until bottoms of potatoes are spotty golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating baking sheet after 10 minutes. Using metal spatula and tongs, flip fries, keeping potatoes in single layer. Continue baking until fries are golden and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes longer, rotating pan as needed if fries are browning unevenly.

3. Transfer fries to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle parsley, garlic, and Parmesan cheese mixture until coated. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Serves 3-4

Make-Ahead Tips:
Hours ahead:
Parsley can be cleaned and leaves picked ready for chopping
Grate cheese and set aside

2 hours ahead:
Wash and cut potatoes, soak in cold water up to 2 hours if necessary

1 hour ahead:
Soak cut fries in hot tap water for 10 minutes
Chop parsley and toss with grated Parmesan cheese and grated garlic
Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees F

To yield 35 generous portions to be used as a side for sandwiches, I used 13 pounds of potatoes.


Of Blogging and Essay Contests...

I have been a terrible blogger lately. However, I have a good excuse.

Remember this girl? She aspires to become a writer.
Last week, she entered her first essay contest.

The essay the judges choose will receive scholarship opportunities. In addition, the essay with the most Facebook "likes" gets an iPad. (She's more excited about the iPad than the scholarship.)
My daughter inherited her competitive spirit from her Korean Mama! And we've been furiously campaigning for votes, so blogging has been put on the back-burner while the contest cooks, I mean lasts.

However, I do have fresh posts coming!
Earthen Oven Pizza...

Chicken Pot Pie...

Crab Cake Sandwiches...

As for the scholarship contest, my girl has never been more grateful to have a mom who twitters, blogs, contacts Facebook friends on her behalf. And I'd do just about anything for her because she's my little girl.

If you have a Facebook, please click here to vote!

*Photo of my girl by Nate Henderson @ Openlightstudio.com


Pork BBQ Pizza

Wednesday lunch crowd love these simple Pork BBQ pizzas. I learned this recipe from my friend David Weikert, executive chef of The Pirates House and its sister restaurant, Pearl's Salt Water Grille. I hope to properly introduce you to Chef David because he is one of the most gifted chefs I know. But for now for Pork BBQ pizzas....

Use your favorite pizza dough recipe, or frozen bread dough recipe will work fine, too. I use simple bread flour, yeast, salt, and water recipe (see below), and after proofing and shaping the dough discs, they are par-baked. This way I can have 60 personal-size pizzas ready to be topped & baked all at once.

Use your favorite dry rub, pan sear pork tenderloin and cook until medium (internal temperature 145 degrees F). Since pork will be sliced and used as a topping and baked again, don't fully cook the meat.

Smear your favorite BBQ sauce. I used Cattlemen's Tangy Gold since it is a great tasting sauce readily available. Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese.

Top with mozzarella cheese, pork tenderloin, more Parmesan cheese, and drizzle extra sauce.

Bake in 450 degrees for about 8-12 minutes until cheese is melted. Cut in half and serve immediately.

Pork BBQ Pizza
(Makes about 4 personal pizzas)

1 recipe of prepared pizza dough
1 Pork Tenderloin, cooked to medium, sliced thin
2 Cups of Cattlemen's Tangy Gold BBQ sauce, or your favorite
2 Cups of shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 Cup of shredded Parmesan cheese

Or any toppings you like: caramelized onions, olives, artichoke hearts, etc.

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

For crusts that will be made into pizza immediately, add your toppings.

Bake time is between 8-12 minutes, add a couple minutes for loaded pizzas.

Simple Pizza Dough Recipe
(Makes about 4 personal size pizza dough)

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Extra olive oil for brushing the edge before baking fully assembled pizzas.

1. In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.

2. Stir in flour, salt and oil. Mix and turn dough until smooth. Cover and let rest for about 30 minutes, dough will be doubled in size.

3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into thin 6-inch diameter rounds for personal size pizzas. Now they are ready for toppings.

If cooking for a large group, par bake these at 425 degrees for 3-5 minutes until dough rises and crust is set. Cool completely and store in freezer or top them with your favorite toppings and bake.

Make-Ahead Tips:

Up to two weeks ahead: Pizza dough is made and par-baked, cooled completely. Store in freezer bag until ready to use. Par-baked discs do not need to thaw before putting sauce and toppings.
Up to one hour ahead: Brush the edge of the pizza dough with olive oil. Top with sauce, cheeses, and sliced pork

15 minutes before serving: Bake at 425-450 degrees oven until cheese is completely melted. 8-12 minutes depending on the oven.


Make-Ahead Creamy Mac and Cheese for 300

I have made Mac and Cheese dozens of times during my three years of working at the IPC kitchen, but I was never quite satisfied with the result. Creamy, yet flavorful mac and cheese for 300 seemed like a distant, unachievable goal.

However, I was inspired to give it another try after reading Jenna's post on her success of making Mac and Cheese. Though I could not use her exact recipe (it contained blue cheese; we have too many young palates who wouldn't be too keen on that) I wanted to give it another try. Creamy Mac and Cheese or bust!

Cook elbow pasta alente. I cooked 12 pounds of pasta and used six full-size disposable, aluminum steam pans for easy clean up. This can be done up to two days ahead. Toss a bit of melted butter before storing. Bring to room temperature before adding cheese sauce.

For cheese sauce, make blonde roux: cook butter until it begins to foam. Add dry mustard, freshly grated garlic, and cayenne pepper.

Add equal amount of flour and cook until light golden.

Whisk in chicken broth and milk slowly. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often until slightly thickened.

Add freshly grated sharp cheddar and Colby cheese. Colby cheese gave the sauce the smooth texture I was after.

Divide and pour cheese sauce over pasta. Adjust with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil.

This is not a necessary step for home cooks. But for large volume cooking, use stainless steel steam pans to support the weight of the food, since thin aluminum disposable pans are used. Then, carefully pour a little hot water between two pans to keep the pasta edges from burning. Hot water acts as an added insulation to the pans, keeping the temperature even throughout the pans.

For crisp, buttery topping, toss Panko bread crumbs, a dash of paprika or dry rub, and melted butter. Spread it on a rimmed cookie sheet and toast in oven for 8-12 minutes. After mac and cheese is completely heated through, sprinkle topping right before serving.

Ahhh. Finally...dreamy, creamy Mac and Cheese! I was so thrilled! Thank you so much for the inspiration, Jenna!

Make-Ahead Baked Mac and Cheese
Serves 6-8 (sit down dinner); buffet 16-18; portioned and served 25+

2 Cups of Toasted Panko Bread Crumbs (see note below)
1 pound elbow macaroni, or any small pasta
1 tablespoon table salt
6 tablespoons (3 oz) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons ((1.8 oz) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 medium garlic clove, grated
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
3 1/3 cups milk
1 pound Colby cheese , shredded (4 cups)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese , shredded (2 cups)
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Make the topping and set aside. Bring 4-5 quarts of water to boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt and pasta. Stir and cook until just beginning to softened and firm in the center to bite. About 5-7 minutes depending on the quantity. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.

2. Wipe the pot dry and heat the pot medium heat. Add butter and melt, stir in the garlic, mustard, and cayenne for about 30 seconds until fragrant and butter begins to foam. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden.

3. Gradually whisk in broth and milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes (requires more if cooking a large amount). Off heat, whisk in cheeses until cheeses are fully melted. Add pasta and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Pour into 13x9 inch baking dish.

4. To Store: After cooling, wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap first then foil. Refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 month. Thaw completely and bring the casserole to room temperature before baking. Toast, cool, then freeze bread crumbs.

5. To serve: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic wrap! But cover tightly with foil. Bake until the filling is hot throughout, 40-45 minutes. Add topping and serve.

Toasted Panko Topping:
2 Cups of Panko Bread Crumb
1 teaspoon of paprika or dry rub mixture
4 tablespoon melted unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Toss bread crumbs, paprika (or dry rub) and melted butter in a bowl. Spread out over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring until toasted. 8-12 minutes. Cool completely.

Make-ahead tips:
Make the casserole and refrigerate up to 2 days. Or freeze up to 1 month. Thaw in refrigerator completely in the refrigerator about 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before baking in oven.
For serving 300 people: for 12 lbs of pasta, make recipe X 11 for the cheese sauce.

3-4 Days ahead: all cheese was shredded with food processor and stored in refrigerator.

Up to 6 hours ahead: cooked 12 pounds of pasta, drain, drizzle some melted butter & store in 6 full-size disposable steam pans until ready to bake
**toast topping, cool completely and set aside

Up to 3 hours ahead: make cheese sauce, divide and pour into 6 pans. Cover with foil and set aside until ready to bake.

1 hour ahead: Put 1 1/2 cups hot water between 2 layers of pan. Bake until filling is hot. Before serving, generously sprinkle topping.