1. Starting at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours before serving, scrub the potatoes well under cold running water. Peel them, if desired. Using a sharp knife or a French fry cutter, cut each potato lengthwise into long sticks about Y4 inch square. Place in a large bowl of cold water. (If you like crispy fries, refrigerate the bowl of fries for 2 hours.) Drain well. In batches, spin the potatoes in a salad spinner, then pat completely dry with paper towels. Wrap the potatoes in paper towels to keep them from discoloring.
2. Place a large wire cake rack over a jelly roll pan. In a deep Dutch oven over high heat, melt shortening to a depth of 2 to 3 inches and heat it to 325°F. In batches, without crowding, deep-fry the potatoes until tender and just beginning to color, about 3 minutes. Using a wire-mesh skimmer, transfer to the wire rack and let cool. The potatoes can stand at room temperature for up to 4 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Transfer the cooled potatoes to paper towels and pat to remove excess fat. Reheat the shortening over high heat to 375°F. In batches, without crowding, add the potatoes and cook until crisp and golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a wire-mesh skimmer, transfer the fries to the wire rack and keep warm in the oven while frying the rest. Serve immediately, seasoned with salt and with a dipping sauce on the side.
NOTE: It's a fact that the most delicious French fries are cooked in rendered lard or beef fat. (McDonald's fries haven't been quite the same since they stopped using beef fat.)
GAUFRETTES (WAFFLE-CUT POTATOES): cut the ends off a potato to make it somewhat rectangular. Using the ruffled blade of a mandollne, cut the potato end to make a ridged surface. Turn the potato 90 degrees and slice again to make a waffle-cut chip. Continue cutting and turning the potato until all of it has been sliced. Repeat with the remaining potatoes. Transfer to a bowl of cold water and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain, spin in a salad spinner, and pat dry with paper towels. Deep-fry in 375°F vegetable oil until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes.
SHOESTRING POTATOES: Using a mandollne, cut the potatoes lengthwise into 1/16-inch square "shoestrings." transfer to a bowl of cold water and proceed as for the gaufrettes above.
This Classic Belgian French Fries recipe is from the Fried & True: Crispy and Delicious Dishes from Appetizers to Desserts Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.
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