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Take everything you love about a french fry - that crisp, golden-brown crust enveloping an oh-so-fluffy interior - and flatten it.



In fact, go ahead and smash it.

Lately, I've been frying up smashed potatoes, and they're everything I could want in a french fry and more. Each bite is like a tiny taste of culinary nirvana: crunchy yet delicate, full of flavor. Not to mention, smashed fries are the perfect width for dipping into your favorite sauce.

And they're so simple to make. Boil a batch of small new potatoes, then carefully smash them with a fork. Pan-fry them in a shallow layer of oil just until the outer layer is richly golden, then gently lift them out, careful to remove any leftover crispy bits from the oil as well. (Aren't the crispy bits at the bottom always the best part?)

You'll probably be tempted to eat them straight out of the frying oil, but spare your fingers and taste buds the burn. Give the fries a minute or two to cool on a rack as you sprinkle them with a little salt.

In case you were wondering, this is not a healthful dish. So go ahead and embrace your creation. Gild the lily.

Start with a cool ranch dipping sauce. Rich and creamy, it's garlicky but tamed somewhat by a little vinegar and spice. A handful of chopped fresh herbs help to round out the harmony.

Tricks for perfect smash

The kind of potato makes a difference when it comes to texture. Depending on the type, the fries might be a little more creamy (when made with many waxy and new potatoes) or more fluffy (when made with banana fingerlings, blue or purple potatoes).

Use a fork to smash, instead of something flat. A fork will give the potatoes a more textured surface - ridges and valleys - and those little crispy bits.

Where french fries are typically fried twice - once at a lower temperature to blanch, then again at a higher temp to crisp - smashed fries are boiled first and fried only once.

You can boil the potatoes up to a few days in advance, then refrigerate them until you're ready to fry (perfect when planning ahead for company).

A neutral oil - canola, vegetable or peanut - works just fine for frying, bringing out the rich flavor of the potatoes themselves. But feel free to be inventive. Lard is magical, and bacon fat is downright divine (surely, you have some lying around). And if you can find duck fat, I promise you'll never want to fry in any other fat again. It's the frying fat of the gods.





Smashed Fries



2 pounds fingerling or very small new potatoes

2 quarts water

2 tablespoons salt, plus more for seasoning

Canola or vegetable oil, for frying





Place the potatoes, water and salt in a large, heavy bottom saucepan. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the potatoes until they are just tender when pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes more.

Drain the potatoes and set aside until cool enough to handle. (The recipe can be prepared to this point up to three days in advance; refrigerate the potatoes until needed, then continue with the recipe.)

Using a fork, gently smash the potatoes. The thicker the smashed potatoes, the fluffier the fries; conversely, the flatter the potatoes, the more crisp the fries. Set the smashed potatoes aside while you heat the oil.

Fill a heavy-bottom deep saute pan with oil so the oil comes up the sides of the pan by inch. Heat the oil to a temperature of 350 degrees; the oil will shimmer in the pan.

Fry the potatoes in the oil until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes, careful not to crowd the potatoes (fry a single layer of potatoes at a time; this will need to be done in batches). Drain the potatoes on a rack until all of the potatoes are fried.

Season the smashed fries with additional salt to taste, and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Note: For additional flavor, substitute duck fat, lard or bacon fat for the frying oil.



Each of 8 servings: 209 calories; 2g protein; 19g carbohydrates; 2g fiber; 14g fat; 1g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 1g sugar; 184mg sodium.





Creamy Ranch Dipping Sauce



1 (8-ounce) container cream cheese, softened

1 (16-ounce container) sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon minced garlic

cup minced red onion

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon chopped chives

2 tablespoons chopped dill

2 tablespoons chopped tarragon

Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated or chopped

1a teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

a teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

Fresh ground black pepper to taste





In a large bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise until very smooth. Whisk in the garlic, onion, parsley, chives, dill, tarragon, lemon zest, vinegar, salt and chipotle pepper. Season to taste with black pepper, and adjust the salt and vinegar if desired.

Cover and chill until needed; the dip tastes best if the flavors are allowed to develop 2 to 3 hours before serving.

The dip will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days.

Makes about 1 quart.

Each tablespoon: 51 calories; no protein; 1g carbohydrates; no fiber; 5g fat; 2g saturated fat; 10mg cholesterol; no sugar; 73mg sodium.