Every Friday, like clockwork, the text comes from the mom or dad of one of my 11-year-old’s friends. “The girls are asking for a sleepover. OK by me if OK by you!?”
I got this exact message from my friend Annie late Friday afternoon while Phoebe, Andy, and I were sitting on the grassy berm beside the school track where I sometimes run. I had just logged three miles after putting it off all day and felt good. I was psyched to go home, shower, drink an icy gin and tonic on the patio, and chill. We had been in a hundred different directions that week, and our Saturday and Sunday didn’t look any less busy, so I wanted all four of us home for dinner, a little breather before we ramped it up again.
I said no to the sleepover. First of all, if Abby has a 15-minute window, the kid finds a way to make a plan, so it’s not like she never sees her friends. Second of all, my daughters are 11 and 13, and it feels like any day I am going to lose them entirely on weekend nights, and I won’t even be in the position to say yes or no. Am I right, seasoned veterans/parents of teenagers out there?
So maybe that’s why when Abby requested French fries along with burgers and dogs, we decided we weren’t going to go with the healthy, homeworky baked russet kind of French fry. We were going to have real fries, gold and crispy, hot and salty, enticing enough to compete with any possible plan that teenagers will dream up for the next 400 Friday nights we have them under our watch.
Problem is, we don’t know how to make those kinds of fries.
“Don’t we need a deep fryer?” I asked Andy.
“I think we can just use a Dutch Oven,” he told me as he cross-referenced a bunch of googled recipes.
“Doesn’t the oil have to be a specific temperature?” I asked. “We don’t have a thermometer.”
“We’ll figure it out,” he said.
“Do we have the right oil?”
He didn’t respond.
He’s always been much better at winging it than me.
Turns out making real fries — the fried kind of fries — is not very complicated. You don’t have to own a deep-fryer or a thermometer or possess any special knowledge beyond recognizing the look of a French fry when it’s done. Andy poured about an inch and a half of peanut oil into the big cast iron Dutch Oven, set it over medium heat, and sliced up some unpeeled Yukon golds while it heated. First he sliced them cross-wise (so he had seven or eight flat disks per potato), then lengthwise into matchsticks. He rinsed them, patted dry with paper towels, then dropped two or three into the oil to test the temperature. They sizzled like crazy before settling down a bit, then added the rest. After 15 minutes, he removed with a slotted spoon onto more paper towels, let the oil drain off, then salted them like the sea.
And it worked. “We should make these every Friday,” Abby said as soon as she tasted one, eyeballs wide.
I got no problem with that plan.