crispy oven fries

The kids are snuggled in their beds, fast asleep. Much as I should be in bed, too, I’m wide-eyed after a cat nap. It’s become part of Virginia’s bedtime routine. After we read books, I usually curl up with her, to help her fall into a peaceful slumber. This wasn’t always our pattern; certainly not when Michael was alive. Then again, I was always firm about bedtime, knowing that a cuddle on the couch was my reward after a long day. The daytime was all about the girls. Nighttime was a standing date with my guy to catch up on our day, relax, and enjoy curling up in the corner of our L-shaped sofa together.

When we first started dating, the corner was his throne. I’d sprawl myself across the longer end, and rest my head in his lap, waiting like a cat to be stroked across the temples and forehead. Somewhere along the way, the tables turned, but not quite equitably. Michael relinquished the corner, and instead of soothing my headache of the day away, he’d scoop up my feet in his lap, and rub away the aches of standing all day long in the kitchen.

Lately, my longing for him is insatiable, but at the same time, something incredible has happened in sorting through my journals from the last 948 days. In reflecting back on our life together, I’m finding the anger is slowly slipping away, being replaced by thankfulness for having had the time we did together. It is moving at a glacial pace, and a transition I’m finally accepting will last the rest of my life. Much as I wish the mourning process was finite, it is not. It is a weight one must juggle like a hot coal, almost. I don’t know if the coal gets cooler, and more manageable at times, or if one just gets better at the juggle itself. I suppose it’s a bit of both.

One way I try to reconnect to him, and the happier times we shared, is by revisiting some of my older recipes. They’re literary, and sometimes literally, breadcrumbs that connect what I love to do, with those I love. That’s what brought me into the kitchen to make an old favorite, crispy oven fries, a couple of months ago. Sliders were on the menu for dinner. The kids are day and night when it comes to almost everything. Virginia loves mashed potatoes. Isabella only loves fries, and only real French fries. Could I possibly find a common ground?

Then I remembered these crispy oven fries I first wrote about four years ago. I should mention it’s one of those “telephone” recipes, shared from blog to blog, with the steps changing a little each time. The original recipe is for garlicky baked fries. The seasoning was a definite no-go for my girls, even back then, so I went for a classic sea salted version. They were also microwaved to par-cook them before baking. Shaheen mixed things up, and par-boiled them to eliminate the microwave when she wrote about them. By time the recipe made its way to my kitchen, I decided to nix both of those methods, wondering if I could just par-cook them in the oven while it was preheating. Success!

The important thing to remember with this recipe is that is you must not skip the two-part cooking method. The par-cooking ensures the inside cooks thoroughly, while the blast of high heat crisps up the outside perfectly. On this last pass, I decided to make a shoestring version—I only wish I’d thought to make that tweak when M was here to taste them! I also cut back a bit on the cornstarch (the other secret to getting them super-crisp). Next up, I’d love to try these with sweet potatoes. If anyone gives that a shot, please let me know.

This recipe is now available to paid subscribers on my site, Simmering.  Join thousands of other subscribers now for only $5/month or $30/year (that’s six months free!). Use this link for a special 15% discount on annual subscriptions for being a loyal reader of In Jennie’s Kitchen (that’s only $25.50/year!).


  • Liz

    I’m going to try this but I will say that what stepped up my own fries – russet and sweet potato was slicing, soaking (10 minutes), drying and then season and bake. The soaking supposedly gets rid of some starch ??? – anyway it has been working but I sure want to test your method!

    And I don’t know if this will bridge the potato gap, but yesterday I had 1/2 a large baked russet leftover. I smashed it, added pizza toppings, baked about 7 min in a 450 oven and had potato “pizza”.

  • Taylor

    I cannot wait to try these out! I have such a struggle finding a REALLY great crispy oven fry. I found one that were soaked first in water for twenty minutes, and then baked. They came out really good, but not really great. I can’t wait to try this out! (and with sweet potatoes too!)


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  • Rose D. Frenchtown, NJ

    I feel silly commenting about how crazy my kiddos are about crispy french fries after you’ve shared lovely memories of your evening rituals with Michael…I’m just sending hugs across the river to you and your beautiful girls.

    JP’s Note: Rose!!! Don’t feel silly. I love seeing your comments pop up. They brighten my day to see the notes from the “friends” who have opened their hearts and homes to me.

  • Amber

    Don’t get me wrong, I love your recipes, but to be honest, I come here because of grief. Your words have always resonated with me and put words to feelings that I wasn’t able to define. I wasn’t married, yet, but I lost my boyfriend a little over a year and a half ago. I may have left a comment similar to this before, but anyways, I had printed off your blog posts after Michael passed and they helped me as much as a few of the grief books I read. I wanted to say thank you, but I also wondered if you’d thought of writing a book about dealing with the monster of grief. People tell me “I’ll move on” and “find someone new” but I find it hard to imagine ever having feelings of love towards someone else and not wanting him to be my J. I was wondering if you could share thoughts on how that process was/is for you in balancing grief/new love. I’m so glad you have found love and it truly gives me hope that I won’t always feel like this. People think you can get over grief like a break-up, but it’s completely different. I’m choking up just typing this. Well, just, thanks again for sharing a glimpse into the hard world that some of us, unfortunately, can relate to.

    JP’s Note: Hi Amber. You can always reach out to me offline, so please don’t ever hesitate or fell you’re overstepping boundaries ( I think you have once, too, if I’m remembering correctly. In regards to writing a book, the answer is yes, but it will be a while before that makes its way from my home to the lives of others. It is a monster task to tackle, and my biggest gripe is that no book on grief tells the full story. As for the falling in love part, it comes with a price, and sometimes you realize it’s not one you’re willing to pay. I hope that one day I really can move forward to a new chapter with someone else. Right now, that just isn’t meant to be for me (yes, much has changed since I talked about C. on these pages). You know the most important thing you have to remember as you wake each day, and wonder how you’re going to get through it all? First, one day at a time. It sounds like absolute bullshit, yet it’s a truth I think only someone who has walked this path is allowed to utter. I trip myself up often, thinking too far into the future, wishing for something more than the deep sadness and emptiness I feel now. My other bit of advice to get through this, and maybe give yourself hope for a new love one day, is tend to your emotional wounds now. Remind yourself that it is OKAY to be sad, angry, feel as though hope is lost. It is only in sorting through the layers that you can put one foot in front of the other. This is the part that many grief books don’t address. They try to shore you up, before letting you know it’s okay to crumble. Be well, and as I said, my virtual door is always open.

  • Julie

    Like Amber, I love how your write about food, but I read because of how you write about your Michael and your girls. I did not lose my husband, but rather our son. The way you express your love and grief is beautiful and resonates with me. xoxo

  • Carol

    I, also, enjoy your recipes, own your book, look forward to reading your blog posts which i have been doing since before the tragedy with M. Last June 21st my husband passed away suddenly while he was getting ready for work. It turned out a blood clot in his leg broke free and traveled to his lungs. He could breathe but wasnt getting oxygen exchanged. My whole world for the past 31 years changed the moment I found him.

    It was helpful to have read what you wrote about losing M. Sadness is a new companion for me. The love of my life is gone. Im thankful for having loved so deeply, and for all the happy memories

  • angelitakarmalita

    I will agree with some of the previous comments, that I also, come here for both, the recipes and the grieving process. Your recipes are the best, “homemade w/love” kinda sums up the way you want to cook for people you love, and the way you want to eat too (I mean right?), but also the grieving. Your openess, and honesty about it is amazing and it has a way of healing things that maybe resonate w/some of your readers, in so many different ways. We all either have, or will grieve, your honesty about it is both bracing and real. We love ya, and I can’t wait to try the fries….. I’m an old dog at recipes, and this method is even new for me!

  • Rocky Mountain Woman

    A book that really helped me was The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Another was How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Peter McWilliams. And another, more light hearted, that I couldn’t have appreciated when my grief was new, but recently enjoyed was Good Grief by Lolly Winston.

    Hang in there Jenny and Amber, it gets a little easier. It’s always there, but it gets a tad bit easier to cope after a while.

    Sending you hugs and all the good mojo I can muster!




    I, too, come for the recipes and your beautiful writing. Thirty-six years ago, I lost the man I loved to a sudden heart attack. It was 3 years of putting one foot in front of the other before I took an interest in anything again. Another 5 years later, I met and married my husband; and we have enjoyed almost 30 wonderful years together raising a beautiful family. I hope a second chance at love comes your way as well. I have a wonderful recipe for crispy sweet potato fries that also uses cornstarch for you to try as a thank you for all the wonderful recipes you have posted. Enjoy!

  • Amber

    Thank you for such a thoughtful reply, Jennie. I truly appreciate it.

    Carol, I’ll keep you in my thoughts. Seems as though this is a safe space if you need to find a person to talk to. I’m always available.

  • Erin

    Trying this with sweet potatoes and zucchini tonight excited to taste the results and see if the ginger toddler approves. Thank you for such great inspiration as always!

  • Tracey Alvernaz

    Good Morning Jennie,
    We love your recipes, advice and everything. I believe it is important to help with the grief process whenever you can.
    Amber, we are praying for you, I am. Don’t be afraid to cry, there were many times I just broke down in the checkstand. I always kept mucho boxes of Kleenex with me. People will always think they know best (what is that ALL about?) but they mean well. It is a process, but no one knows except one that has gone through it themselves.(hence the email to you and Jennie)
    Much wishes for a happy day,
    Tracey A.
    p.s. Don’t forget to always talk to them. I still do to this day!

  • Elizabeth Milner

    Hi, Jennie. Your writing is just wonderful – natural and easy, like a conversation with a friend. Along the same lines, I have no idea how you made those fries look so appealing on an ordinary, scratched up baking sheet. Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your site.