It wasn’t until this past weekend that I even gave a second thought to the fact that I rarely serve you side dishes. It’s been a hair over a year and I’ve barely given you a french fry.
So Saturday I found myself staring deep into the freezer case of Whole Foods, half my life savings stacked neatly in the carriage to my left, and there they were: frozen french fries. You’d have thought I was marveling at a modern art installation. There were tater tots, waffle fries, and those of a curly persuasion. White ones, yellow ones, sweet orange ones.
I wanted each and every one of them, sprinkled with two days’ worth of recommended sodium intake, dipped in ketchup, and in my belly.
I do like frozen fries. I like how easy and fast they are. How much they remind me of fish sticks and fries and the Gorton’s fisherman and being eleven. But what I don’t like is paying upwards of $4 for a bag of potatoes cut bluntly into sticks and coated with god-knows-what from heaven-knows-where.
I could make these, I say to myself. Yes I could. I could buy a big russet, or garnet yam, heck I could buy a bulbous butternut squash, peel it, cut it up, bake it, and have a heaping plate’s worth of fresh hot fries for a fraction of the calories of the pre-made kind. I could also organize my cabinets so I wouldn’t buy a new jar of relish every week of my life. Some things are easier said than done.
What did I do with these thoughts? I made fries.
I’d like to say it was an iron will that tore me from those frosty glass doors and back to the produce for a smooth-skinned winter squash, but really, it was the low-grade hypothermia just setting in.
Either way, I’m glad I brought that butternut home and made friends, then fries, with her. They’re such a deliciously different take on traditional crispy white ones. These come out of the oven soft and tender, mashy in the middle with a slight crusty coating. I’d call their slight sogginess a plus, along the same lines as how good those last few fries in a McDonad’s bag are, warm and mushy with oil and salt.
Butternut squash fries are nutty and sweet, and when generously salted, the play of flavors is just lovely. They’re light and wholesome. This is not much of a recipe, given that there are three ingredients and minimal effort involved, but I want you to know how to make healthy fries at home. Feel free to substitute white potatoes or sweet potatoes, both work equally as well! Here’s how they’re made:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel a large butternut squash, slice it width-wise down the center and then length-wise so that you have 4 equal quarters. Scoop out the fleshy, seedy centers of the two bulbous ends. Cut the squash into even, thin sticks, about 1/3″ thick.
Place the cut squash in a large bowl, add 2 tablespoons canola oil, and use your hands to rub the oil on each fry shape. Then, salt them to high heaven.
Here’s the key: Bake them on a wire cooling rack set on top of a baking sheet. The air will be able to circulate around all sides of the fries and they’ll develop a much more even crisp. I’ve experimented with both methods of baking the fries: one where the fries laid on the cooling rack (as pictured and directed), and one where the squash laid directly on a cookie sheet. The cooling rack is far superior.
They’ll take about 40 minutes in the oven. Flip them halfway.
Sprinkle with extra salt and serve immediately with ketchup!
Baked Butternut Squash Fries
one 2lb butternut squash
2 tablespoons canola oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and cut the squash into long, thin french fry shapes (roughly 1/3″ thick). In a large bowl, toss the squash with oil, using your hands to evenly coat each one. Lay them on a wire rack set on top of a baking sheet and salt them generously. Bake for about 40 minutes, flipping halfway for even crispness. Serve immediately with extra salt and ketchup.
Nutrition info for 1/4 of the entire recipe:
Calories: 151.9, Fat: 7.2g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Carb: 23.6g, Fiber: 6.6g, Protein: 2.0g