Food Hack #4: Reviving Those Fries
You've been there right? You had fries with your take-out and they were soooo good you decided to keep the leftovers for a cheeky late-night snack. Well that time is now and you need to get your snack on, you take those previously delectable little potato javelins and you bang them in the microwave for a quick re-heat. You stand there ready and salivating armed with the Salt & Vinegar and a fork. After what seems like an eternity (but was in fact 180 seconds), you hear the ding of the microwave like an angel's starter pistol. You pull out the now steaming plate of golden goodness, give them a quick dash of essential seasoning and.....
You get a mouthful of sweaty, hot and limp potato that resembles more of day-old wallpaper paste mixed with playdough then that crispy morsel of loveliness you had earlier. Your bedtime snack dreams are ruined!
Yep, reheating french fries is a school boy error we've all had to learn over our culinary journey. I've tried it every which way; microwave, oven, frying pan / skillet, you name it and up till now it has been a spectacular fail.
If you're a regular reader and already wondering the secret, you're probably thinking:
"Here we go, another Air-Fryer trick, how original".
Well you'd be wrong smarty pants!
This little hack is so simple I even considered if it was worth writing a post about and whether I should just included it in a compilation post along the lines of "25 Super-Simple Food Hacks", which now thinking about it might actually be my next post!
But the theoretical physicist Albert Einstein famously said:
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
And that would pretty much describe my approach to reheating fries. So when the Eureka moment came when I finally broke the cycle and re-heated a chip butty (Butty: - noun. A sandwich, agnostic fo filling, usually served in a bread roll) successfully to the point it was 9/10 as good as the first time around, you would have thought I'd invented perpetual energy I was so excited.
So let me cut to the chase, as this hack is probably not worthy of a three hundred word post and if you've bothered to read this far you probably qualify as a fry reheating geek like me. So hold onto your knickers, here it is:
There you have it, Defrost. Yep, you heard me. D-E-F-R-O-S-T
You reheat fries by defrosting them. Boom! Mind blown!
OK, I'm done with basking in my own glory. Allow me to explain.
I'll start with a confession, I didn't come up with this. My friend and colleague Selena and I decided one busy work day to spoil ourselves with one of the most famous take out dishes in Cape Town: The Gatsby!
A Gatsby is a whole post of it's own but all you need to know right now is it is a giant sandwich containing chips that feeds four.
Now I can eat, I don't mind admitting, but Selena is small and despite our best efforts, taking down a Gatsby on Wednesday lunchtime between two wasn't going to happen.
But it was good, and as Mrs H was away on business I figured I could take what was a solid quarter home and make a simple TV dinner from the left over chips and bread.
Mr H: I'll take it home, seems a shame to waste it. Although this thing re-heated is going to be fairly gnarly. Oh well, if it's rank I'll have to bin it.
Selena: Just reheat it in the microwave on defrost for 5 minutes
Mr H: Say what now? is that a thing?
Selena: You didn't know that? You clearly don't eat enough Gastby's!
And there it was, the recipe for success, 5 minutes on defrost.
I got home that evening to a empty house clutching my rugby ball sized clump of paper containing the leftover Gatsby. After episodes of Come Dine With Me, Gold Rush and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (I live a rock & roll lifestyle, what can I say) and a few glasses of my favourite Rum & Diet Pepsi, I started to build up a cheeky little appetite.
It was time, I was tipsy and I couldn't think of anything I'd enjoy more than a repeat performance of the lunchtime junk-fest of chips in bread.
As I had low expectations, I just threw the whole parcel, paper and all in the micro and hit the defrost button and dialled in 5 minutes.
What seemed like moments later right in the middle of Gordon publicly berating some poor chef for undercooking a chicken drumstick, I heard the reassuring ping of Samsung's finest and headed into the kitchen to see what g'wan.
I am happy to report that what I found was a refreshed and renewed Gatsby; chips hot, fluffy and tasty, bread a little hot but in surprisingly good shape considering that was the bit that didn't actually need re-heating. Not quite as good as the original but good enough to eat and certainly better than what I was expecting. Needless to say it got devoured and the rest of the night was nursing my increasing heartburn.
It only bloody worked!
I've now tried the defrost method in slightly more clinical trials (with less booze) and can report that my findings are; that it works fairly consistently and works best if you have a "weight defrost" option where you dial in the approximate weight of the thing requiring re-heating and let the microwave calculate the time.
This actually also works pretty well for Pizza. I've always used the low frying pan hack (place pizza in a frying pan / skillet with a lid on under low heat to steam the top and crisp the bottom) for pizza as it's a tried and tested staple but that requires actual effort and this process is not that far off the same result. it also works pretty well for rice (think leftover chinese food). I think the science is pretty simple; most of us only use our microwave at full power nuclear reactor setting for speed and convenience and that's why microwaved food is generally pretty dire. using defrost slows the whole process down and reheats the food more gently without drying it out completely.
Disclaimer: There is one downside to this approach and that is simply that unless you have a fancy combination oven microwave thingy (I don't), there is no way of retaining or adding crispness in the microwave. This means that the Maccy D style skinny fries are not going to reheat well using this method either, this is more for your chunky chips and wedges. If you have to reheat the former, the air fryer is still the daddy of crisp.
So somehow I still managed to turn a super simple hack into a couple of thousand words but I think it's worth it. I don't often need to reheat fries as I was brought up in a household where you cleaned your plate (Which is also why I am ample in stature) but on the odd occasion that I do, this is now the daily driver of reheat methods.
Even if you're too posh to reheat nosh this is a good factoid for your cooking arsenal and might just help you out one day. If you are the type of thrifty shopper that makes a take-out last two sittings, you can thank me later.