For everyday fries, we make them in the oven, but these aren’t everyday fries. This is the recipe you pull out when you want the quintessential fry—the kind you get on the street all over Europe, perfectly crispy and salty and dolloped with mayo. Make sure you have a reliable thermometer for making these; they’ll turn out infinitely better if you keep the oil a consistent temperature. You can certainly fry these up only once, but for extra crispy fries, try the double-fry. You won’t be sorry.
Prepare a large bowl of water for holding the cut potatoes by filling halfway with cold water. Cut the potatoes into ¼ -inch batons, immediately dropping them into the prepared bowl of water. When all the potatoes are cut, drain them into a large colander and rinse under cold water. The point of all this is to drain away as much starch on the surface as you can; you don’t want those fries to stick to each other when they hit the hot oil.
Rinse out the bowl to make sure there’s no pesky starch hanging around, then measure the white vinegar into the bowl, and refill halfway with cold water. Tumble the cut potatoes into the bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour, but as long as overnight.
Put the potatoes and the vinegar water into a large dutch oven or a 3 to 4-quart saucier. Add 2 tablespoon of salt and bring to a robust simmer. Keep in mind, you should start cooking the potatoes in cold water, which allows them to cook evenly. Simmer the potatoes gently for about 10 minutes until they are just slightly tender. Drain and lay on a towel-lined sheet pan for about a half hour to drain and dry out.
Meanwhile, heat the peanut oil in a 5-quart dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Let the temperature come to 375°F and in batches, add the potatoes. Make sure you leave ample room for the potato matchsticks to move and dance a little. The other reason to add fewer potatoes and cook in batches (rather than all at once) is so that the oil temperature doesn’t drop too low, too fast. When adding the potatoes, allow the temperature to hover at around 350°F for this first fry, and cook for about 3 minutes. At this point, the fries shouldn’t take on much color. You’re kind of poaching them and getting them used to the big sizzle that’s about to happen. Remove to a paper towel-lined sheet pan and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. At this point, you can store in the freezer for later use. Or immediately move on to a second round of frying.
Prepare a fresh paper towel-lined sheet pan and keep a bowl of salt on hand. If you’re feeling really industrious, make up a batch of newspaper cones for serving the fries. Oh, and keep a bowl of mayo close; you’re going to need it. I suggest homemade.
Bring the oil temperature to 400°F and, again in batches, fry the potatoes a second time until they’re crisp and golden. I suggest serving immediately, but you can hold in a warm 150°F oven if totally necessary. Dollop with ample mayo, smile, and savor with delight and gratitude.