When I was just about a year old, my parents took me to Europe for a three week trip. It was the time of Europe on $5 a Day and the flights and hotels were so inexpensive they couldn’t afford not to go. I don’t think it was a particularly easy trip for them, I was only one after all, and there was some seriously hot weather that we all dealt with in Italy and the south of France. They have told me over the years that I got heat stroke and that I also ate french fries all through Europe. Given my intense love of french fries, even now, this is not surprising. If you are a regular here, you know that most of my savory food is very healthy but you should all know, if I haven’t mentioned it already, that if stranded on a desert island, the one food I would want to eat until the end of time is french fries. Second choice would be ketchup to accompany the fries.
Because I like to fit into my pants, french fries are not a regular part of my diet. One of the benefits of being a parent is getting to steal them off my kids’ plates. But I never order them for myself. While Randy and I were trying to get pregnant, I regularly told him that as soon as I got a positive test, I was having french fries for dinner. We were living in London and had been trying for 8 months which is not a long time in the grand scheme of things, but is a very long time when you are really wanting to get pregnant. On April 1, 2004, I went to see an OB because I wasn’t getting my period but was still not getting a positive pregnancy test. I assumed that I was having some hormonal trouble, something I had dealt with in the past and she ran a panel of tests including a pregnancy test, “just in case”. I was sitting in a laundromat later that day, watching our sheets spin around in the dryer, when the previously frosty and now cheerful doc called me back to tell me that I was, in fact, pregnant. I will never EVER forget that afternoon of pure and private joy, the hours spent grinning and dreaming, alone with my incredible secret. I met Randy in his office that evening and told him that my appointment had not gone well. “APRIL FOOL’S!!”
That night we went to a pub where I gleefully ordered lemonade (which is like Sprite in England) instead of beer and “chips” (hold the fish) for dinner. I was in heaven in more ways than one. Over the next few months, I sampled fries all through London, thankful that my morning sickness actually happened right before bed time and was never too bad, so did not interfere with fry consumption. Toward the end of our time in Europe, Randy and I took a trip, supposedly for Randy’s job, that brought us to Talinn, Stockholm, Brussels, and Amsterdam, and then we continued on to Provence for a week with American friends. I continued on my fry diet, adding in plenty of Belgian and French chocolate, along with a few healthy things. I can tell you that the best chips/fries/frites I had were in a certain pub in London (in Chelsea) and also in Amsterdam.
In my non-pregnant and non-world-traveling days, I am perfectly happy making oven fries. Not only are they healthy and almost as good as the real thing, but they create very little mess. The same can not be said of frying your own potatoes. Or can it?
A couple of months ago, the good people at T-Fal wrote to offer me an ActiFry. This is a machine, the email said, that allows you to fry food with only one tablespoon of oil and is so easy to clean that you can put most of its parts in the dishwasher. This sounded suspiciously too good to be true, so of course I said yes. My machine arrived, I took a look at the instructions and enclosed recipe packet and realized that, because I don’t eat meat, that this would be kind of a one trick pony in my kitchen. Potatoes only. But after sampling the fries that came out of it and after making my own potato chips with it, I am happy to have a device that does one (or two) things.
How does it work? Magic, I think. I prepared my potatoes as I usually do for fries, which is that I sliced them as evenly as possible, then let them soak in a big bowl of water – this is essential for getting a crispiness whether you are using an Acti-Fry or making them in the oven. I dried each fry carefully with a kitchen towel, piled them in the machine, drizzled one tablespoon of olive oil (a tiny measuring cup is included) and turned it on. Then I went about my business making the rest of dinner. After 35 minutes, maybe a few more, the fries were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and tasted, well, like fries. Not greasy in the slightest and evenly cooked which is not always the case with oven fries. If 35-40 minutes sounds like a long time to make fries, consider that it takes at least that long with the oven (including pre-heating time) and probably that long for the old-fashioned way (including heating the oil to the proper temperature, double frying, and making them in small batches). I was able to fit 3 medium sized russet potatoes worth of fries in the machine and I am slightly embarrassed to tell you that I had intended for our family to eat them but I made something else for the boys so Randy and I could devour them all. At the end of dinner, I washed machine parts, which weren’t all that dirty to begin with, easily with hot water and a bit of soap. They didn’t even need a trip through the dishwasher.
So, would you like an Acti-Fry? I receive a fair number of product offerings here at Dana Treat, most of which I decline. (Bacon of the Month club for a vegetarian blogger?) When I do accept, I always ask if I can have an additional one to give away if I like the product. I imagine that it is clear that I am fond of the Acti-Fry and they were kind enough to say I could give one away. I’ve shared my desert island food – what is yours? Tell me in the comments what food you would eat until the end of time. I will pick a winner, randomly, next Wednesday. You have until 5pm PDT to enter. Good luck!
UPDATE: Contest closed! Winner has been selected.