I love yam fries -- I'm partial to the version served at Salisbury House -- but I find that when I make them at home, they tend to be tasty, but sort of limp. I was going to put a call out when I ran across a recipe in a new cookbook, Farm-Fresh Recipes from the Missing Goat Farm by Heather Cameron. She described the exact same problem and suggested that the trick involves fries baked in the oven with a coating of cornstarch. I found that her version definitely improved on mine, but still wasn't quite there. I also tried a healthy, oven-baked recipe that uses egg whites from Martha Stewart's Whole Living magazine. It was good but also not quite crispy enough. (Alas, I suspect the solution involves deep-frying.) Does anybody have any suggestions?
Further to french fry talk, after the Recipe Swap column about Kelekis-style fries, JoAnn Tymchak wrote in to say she and her husband sometimes chatted with one of the Kelekis cooks, who said they used beef fat. (And while that might not be ideal from a health standpoint, it would help to explain that terrific crunch.)
Johanne O'Brien, who sent in some great french fry advice last week, also wrote in to say that it's fine to reuse cooking oil, at least to a certain point. She usually uses a batch 10 times. This makes deep-frying a lot more economical, but do follow a few basic rules: Don't reuse oil that's been used for frying protein like chicken. Don't reuse oil if you don't deep-fry that often and end up keeping oil for long periods of time -- it can become rancid. Also, discard any oil that becomes dark, contains sediment, smokes at low temperatures, or smells "off."
This week, Darlene Warner is hoping someone has a recipe for the gouda sticks once made by a bakery on Academy Road. If you can help with a recipe request, have your own request, or a favourite recipe you'd like to share, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, fax it to 697-7412, or write to Recipe Swap, c/o Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. Please include your first and last name, address and telephone number.
adapted from Farm-Fresh Recipes from the Missing Goat Farm
1 large yam
up to 60 ml (4 tbsp) cornstarch
Peel and cut the yam lengthwise into slices. Cut into fries that are neither too thick nor too skinny. Place the yams in a large bowl filled with water and let soak for 1-2 hours, then drain. Preheat oven to 220 C (425 F). Fill a plastic bag with cornstarch, drop in yams, close up top, and shake yams until they are coated with cornstarch. Pour them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle over some olive oil and toss until they are coated equally with oil. Position the fries so they don't touch each other. (Don't crowd the fries, or they won't crisp.) Use two baking sheets if necessary. Bake each sheet for 15 minutes, flip and bake for 8-10 minutes more. Sprinkle with salt when hot out of the oven.
Tester's notes: These definitely had more texture than my flabby baked yam fries, but you do need to be careful that you don't end up with too much starchy coating. You might want to cut back on the cornstarch a bit, and be sure to shake off the excess, maybe even rub the fries a bit with paper towels. Also, make sure to add enough olive oil so that the coating can crisp up.
Baked yam fries
adapted from Martha Stewart's Whole Living
Vegetable oil for parchment
2 large yams (about 900 g or 2 lbs) skins on, scrubbed and cut lengthwise into sticks about 1.2 cm (1/2 in) thick
3 large egg whites (a scant 125 ml or 1/2 cup)
7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) dried oregano
5 ml (1 tsp) dried thyme
5 ml (1 tsp) garlic powder
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
Preheat oven to 220 C (425 F) with racks in the upper and middle positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and rub with oil.
Put yams in a microwave-safe container, cover, and microwave 2 minutes. Stir gently, cover, and microwave 1 to 2 minutes more until pieces are pliable. Let rest 5 minutes covered; pour onto a platter.
In a large bowl, whisk egg whites until frothy, add seasonings, and whisk to blend. Working in batches, toss the yam pieces in the seasoned egg whites, letting the excess liquid drip back into the bowl. Place in a single layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake 10 minutes, then flip pieces over with a spatula. Rotate baking sheets from front to back and from one rack to the other. Bake until dark golden brown, about 15 more minutes. Serve immediately.
Tester's notes: Tasty and very healthy, though I wish they were a bit crispier.
Be careful when taking the yams out of the microwave -- they give off a lot of very hot steam. And be sure to shake off all the excess egg white, or you end up with bits of fried egg, basically, on the parchment paper.