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Few things have foiled me so completely in the kitchen as the humble oven fry. A dish with so few requirements — potatoes, oil, salt, an oven, and a baking sheet — shouldn’t cause such consternation, but I’ve found myself repeatedly throwing away batches of potatoes that were burned on one side (and occasionally spot welded to the baking sheet), yet not quite cooked all the way through. Even Cook’s Illustrated steered me wrong; their water-soaked fries might’ve been the worst of the bunch.

Sure, these fiascoes were discouraging, but I never let them stop me from chasing my dream of one day producing the perfect oven fry — crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. My failures usually end with Gil making an impromptu run to McDonald’s for backup fries (and fresh air), so he had his keys ready last weekend as I tested another recipe. He needn’t have bothered, though. This one was successful and I have Cooking Light to thank for it, once again.

I’m not exactly sure why it worked this time, but I do have a few theories. I left the skins on this time (because I’d bought organic potatoes), which might’ve helped. Also, I didn’t soak the potatoes at all, nor did I skimp on oil. Even two tablespoons over three servings isn’t THAT much compared to the real deal. Well, whatever the reason, they were glorious and, I hope, replicable.

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Update, 12/20/07: Welcome, Last Night’s Dinner readers! Pull up a chair and make yourselves comfortable.

recipe after the jump

Garlic Fries, from Cooking Light

I used a little Cajun seasoning on the potatoes before baking and drizzled them with truffle oil before serving, but otherwise stuck to the recipe. Even straight from the oven they were great; the topping just knocked them out of the park, but certainly isn’t necessary if you want something more traditional.

4 teaspoons canola oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 pounds peeled baking potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons butter
8 garlic cloves, minced (about 5 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl, tossing to coat. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for 50 minutes or until potatoes are tender and golden brown, turning after 20 minutes.

Place butter and garlic in a large nonstick skillet, and cook over low heat 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add potatoes, parsley, and Parmesan cheese to pan; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

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