Garlic fries seem to be ubiquitous now. Some are really good, some are dreadful. While I like garlic, it should be in balance, but if you like it incendiary, feel free to add more. After several attempts at making garlic fries that fell short, I looked at some packages and determined the secret ingredient to be sugar. Deep frying will catalyze the sugars in potatoes — baking not so much. Applying a little sugar hits just the right note. The best garlic fires I ever had were in Hawaii, but it may have been because of the dipping sauce. They wouldn’t share the recipe, so I created my own version, and share it below. Be sure not to add the garlic too soon or it will burn and taste acrid.
2 pounds Desiree potatoes, or other starchy potatoes such as Yukon Golds, Romanze, etc.
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons + 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed
4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled, germ removed, and chopped fine (Don’t mince the garlic or it will simply burn up)
Equal parts ketchup, Thai sweet chili sauce, and guava puree (available frozen in many markets, especially Latino groceries).
Place oven rack in lower third of oven and heat the oven to 450°F.
Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment, and lightly grease it with olive oil.
Peel the potatoes (or not) and slice lengthwise into 6 wedges. Put cut potatoes into a bowl, and sprinkle evenly with the sugar, a tiny bit of salt, and pepper. Toss well to evenly distribute the seasonings. Drizzle with the 3 tablespoons of oil, or more if that is what it takes to lightly coat all the surfaces of the potatoes, and toss to coat. Transfer to the sheet pan, evenly distributing the potatoes in one layer, not overlapping, with a little space between them.
Place in the oven and roast 15 minutes. Use a spatula to loosen the potatoes and turn them over. The ones nearest the edge may brown faster, if so, rotate them to the center and move the paler ones to the outside of the pan. Return the potatoes to the oven and roast 15 minutes more.
Just before the half-hour mark, warm the 1/2 tablespoon of oil just enough so it thins and will pour easily.* Add the garlic and stir around.
After the second 15 minutes of cooking, turn the potatoes again, or stand upright on their skin sides, and drizzle with the garlic and oil.
Return the potatoes to the oven for 10 minutes more, or until they and the garlic are golden and tender. Be sure not to burn the garlic.
Meanwhile, whisk together the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small bowl.
Pull from the oven and sprinkle with a little salt. (Large flake salt is ideal for this!) Let cool just a bit and serve.
Warming the oil makes it easier to distribute garlic over the potatoes. Trying to do it with your fingers will result in it sticking to your fingers, and a spoon will net clumps of garlic. Warming the oil makes it thinner and more pourable for better distribution. You could also pour the potatoes back into the original bowl with the garlic and oil and toss well to distribute and place back on the baking sheet to finish baking.
If I am not making the dipping sauce, I like to scatter the leaves from 3 or 4 inches of rosemary over the potatoes, or sprinkle the potatoes with a little pimenton de la Vera dulce (Spanish sweet smoked “paprika”).
YIELD: 4 servings