I’ve had a love affair with french-fried potatoes since I was a kid. You don’t need to be a child or French chef to know that fries are served hot and savored as a snack or served with other food for lunch or dinner. And moving to Lake Tahoe didn’t keep me from getting my fix of fries, whether it’s been at KFC or McDonalds. Every time I enjoy an order of this finger food it takes me back to a favorite seaside town, Monterey.
Years ago, to prepare for my SFSU oral exams on authors, I paid a visit to the Salinas library to study works of one of my favorites: John Steinbeck. (He stayed at Fallen Leaf Lake one winter, snowbound with two dogs.) I was tucked away solo in a room for more than 12 hours as I went through the master’s works including a backdrop of Monterey. After my research, on an overcast day, I recall going to Cannery Row, a tourist spot and place Steinbeck wrote about, and getting a larger order of fries. Served in one of those red plastic baskets, I strolled along the shops and tourists while dipping each french fry into ketchup and feeling the ocean air fed the senses: sight and smell. And today, I realize I miss the coastal region so I decided to bring a bit of it here to the mountains.
Vinegar and Sea Salt Home Fries
2 large Russet extra-large potatoes with skins (washed), sliced lengthwise
1-2 tablespoons European style butter, melted (or extra virgin olive oil)
Pure ground black pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons fresh parsley
100 percent natural malt vinegar (Old English Fish & Chip)
Ketchup for dipping
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place potato wedges on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Pour butter over potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake about 25 minutes or till golden brown and crispy. Turn at least once. Drizzle with malt vinegar and sprinkle parsley on top. Put fries on a plate or wicker basket lined with a white napkin. Best when served fresh and hot right out of the oven. Serves two.
I’ve devoured countless bags of vinegar and sea salt potato chips — but never served fries with vinegar. On Tuesday afternoon for a snack when it was cold and rainy, I made a batch of home fries. This recipe calls for premium ingredients — including the best Russet potatoes, malt vinegar (pricey but worth it), and sea salt not the regular stuff. These fries are easy to make and bake. The big homemade taste is worth the small effort. Vinegar and Sea Salt Home Fries are good food by the sea — a place dear to the unforgotten author and me, another lover of writing, water and canines.
Motto: The water may seem to be more blue elsewhere. But often, if you visit a place you think may be better you’ll realize there’s no place like home.
— Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. (The Healing Powers of Honey and Coffee are offered by the Good Cook Book Club.) Update: The Healing Powers of Vinegar, Olive Oil, Honey will be sold onsite at Walmart stores nationwide. Her website is www.calorey.com.