Cumin-Scented Fried Potatoes

  • 3 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut in 1 inch cubes (see Tips)
  • Canola oil for frying
  • ½ teaspoons kosher or fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Pour 3 inches of oil into a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven. Using a deep-frying thermometer for accuracy, heat the oil over medium-high heat to 300 degrees. Meanwhile, drain the potatoes, if necessary, and pat them as dry as possible with a clean kitchen towel. When the oil reaches temperature, lower as many potatoes into the oil as will fit in a single layer. A spider (see Tips) is ideal for doing this safely. Fry until the potatoes are softened but haven’t taken on any color, 4 to 5 minutes.

Scoop the potatoes out with a spider or slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining potatoes as necessary, waiting for the oil to return to temperature if necessary before adding the next batch.

When the potatoes have drained, remove the paper towels from the baking sheet. Stir the salt, cumin and black pepper together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the spice mix liberally over the potatoes, tossing the potatoes to coat them evenly. The potatoes can be made ahead up to this point and held for a couple of hours at room temp, covered with a towel. If holding the potatoes to finish later, remove the pan of oil from the heat.
Return the pan to medium-high heat if necessary and heat the oil to 400° F. Lower the potatoes into the oil as before, in batches if necessary. Fry until the potatoes are golden brown and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Scoop the potatoes out with a spider or slotted spoon onto clean paper towel lined baking sheet. Serve immediately.

TIPS:
The potatoes can be peeled and diced in advance. Keep them in a bowl with enough salted cold water to cover at room temperature for up to an hour or in the refrigerator for up to 3 hours. Drain them very well and pat them dry with a wad of paper towels before frying.

There are small, inexpensive pieces of kitchen equipment that make a world of difference in day-to-day cooking. The “spideralso known as a skimmer, is one of them. Spiders come in all shapes and sizes: from the brass skimmers with wooden handles that can be had for a few bucks in Chinatowns from coast to coast to more expensive stainless steel mesh skimmers with elegant stainless handles. Whatever the type, they all share one thing in common – they have a larger surface area and drain oil (or any other liquid) much faster than a slotted spoon.

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