Thursday, May 17, 2012

French fries without the grease


We sure love those French fries. Americans eat them four times a week, mostly from fast-foot restaurants.

And that's one of the problems with fries. Unless you don't mind having a vat of boiling oil in your kitchen, they're not easy to make at home. The other problem is that oil is loaded with saturated fats, which tend to collect on your waist and thighs.

T-Fal, the company that pioneered the nonstick frying pan, has a cooking gadget designed to solve both problems. The Actifry cooker lets you easily make tasty fries without all the fat. The device cooks food with a single tablespoon of oil, so you get fries with just 3 percent fat content rather than 16-18 percent for the deep-fried restaurant versions.

And I'm here to testify to the easy and tasty part.

My approach to cooking typically focuses on pushing a few buttons on the microwave oven. Tackling a recipe that involves fresh ingredients is usually way out of my league. But I can peel and slice a potato and that's about all the skill I needed to use the Actifry.

After cutting a couple of potatoes into pencil-sized stalks, I dumped them in the Actifry's bowl, added some seasoning salt and one tablespoon of olive oil. Then I closed the lid, set the machine's timer, and left to catch up on some TV.

The Actifry has a stirring paddle that rotates slowly on a center post. By tumbling the potato strips, it distributes the oil and seasoning. The food is cooked using dry heat pumped into the sealed chamber that holds the cooking bowl. There's no bubbling grease, no fumes and no icky residue. The only minor irritation is the noise caused by the rotating bowl and the heat pump.

Thirty minutes after the cooking started, I had a bowl of French fries that were brown and crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside. They were evenly cooked and seasoned with no greasy taste or feel. A couple of nights later, I made potato wedges with spicy paprika seasoning. My family pronounced them as good as any restaurant fries and crowned me the King of France. And with the nonstick surface on the Actify bowl, the king didn't mind clean-up chores.

Although pommes frites are the Actifry's pièce de résistance, the Actifry comes with recipes for a variety of other dishes such as chicken gumbo, salmon tandoori and cherry-pecan granola. Next up for us: chicken stir-fry.

The Actifry costs about $200 at Amazon and other online sources.


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Follow me on Twitter @ricmanning and read my technology columns at My Well Being.


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