“Get your fries and your back… back.”
The saying “There’s no such thing as a stupid question” should only apply to little kids and adults waking up from a long coma. My reasoning goes back to my days when I ate fast food and all the burger joints would ask “Do you want fries with that?” Of course I want fries with that. What a stupid question. It didn’t even matter what “that” was back in those days. If I had been at a tire shop getting a flat repaired and they offered fries, my response would have been “Serve those bad boys up, extra large if you please.”
It wasn’t even enough to get fries, they had to be supersized or it felt like I was being starved. Now supersized portions are a thing of the past, but even a large order of fries from a standard burger chain has at least 500 calories, 26 grams of fat, and 66 grams of carbs. That’s a crazy amount of nutritional damage to inflict just for one side. Add in the burger and large soft drink, and it’s no wonder my waistline was expanding faster than the universe after the Big Bang. Curly fries are even worse. Take a look at the nutrition facts – 650 calories and 77 grams of carbs for only 1/3 of the average fast food meal! But that’s not all. Simple sugars are the stealth ninjas of food, and the gallons of ketchup consumed with each order of fries is loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup. For some perspective, I try to limit each complete meal I eat now to 500 calories or less, and my total carb intake is 30 grams or less, minus fiber.
“…whereas cold potato fries turn into the disappointing equivalent of everything that is wrong with the world”
So when I made my lifestyle change, fries had to go. There’s just no way to outwork those numbers. I have the pictures to prove it. Years ago, I was working out for hours a day for a beach trip, but my diet was still mainly fast food and simple carbs. I thought I had made some progress, but then I saw this picture of my back on that trip compared to my back now with my improved diet and much shorter workouts. As you can see, I had a back that resembled a russet potato despite how hard I was exercising. Mrs. Potato Head, eat your heart out.
For a healthy lifestyle to work, you can’t feel like you’re missing out on old favorites, or feel deprived of certain foods, or it’s just going to fail. So I made it my mission to get my fries back while keeping my new, more streamlined back. It took a lot of trial and error, but I am happy to say I finally found the perfect food source and technique that put fries back on the menu.
Jicama is the best substitute for russet potatoes. It’s a root vegetable and it’s highly versatile. Not only can it be used as a white potato substitute, but hit it with some cinnamon and nutmeg and sauté in a little butter, and it tastes like apple pie. Another plus is leftover jicama fries are great cold straight out of the fridge, whereas cold potato fries turn into the disappointing equivalent of everything that is wrong with the world. Jicama is also nutrition powerhouse loaded in fiber. Compare the numbers in a cup of Jicama to the order of large fries:
Carbs drop from the 70’s to 12, and the fiber is in another league. Of course, you can ruin that by dropping it in a vat of super heated vegetable oil, so like with everything else in life, technique is crucial.
Jicama roots (2 – 3 depending on size)
1 tbsp avocado oil
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
First, you have to remove the skin. A peeler does the job nicely, but you might need a chef knife to slice off the root ends if they are too much for your peeler cut off. Once the jicama is peeled, cut it in half, place flat side down, and slice into sections. Then slice the sections into sticks. I find the standard homestyle fries size is best, because thin cuts tend to burn in the cooking process.
Jicama will vary wildly in size. I like to cut up enough to fill a large baking sheet. That can be 3 medium jicama or 1 giant one, depending on what your produce section has in stock. Once you have them cut, if you have an InstantPot and a steamer basket, add a cup of water, use the steam setting for 48 minutes, and… I don’t know… go walk the dog or take a nap until it’s done. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you’ll have to do this the old fashion way with a traditional steamer basket on the stove top, but that will require more attention. You’ll need to steam for about an hour or until the fries are pliable. They don’t need to be mushy, just bendy where they start to flex instead of snap.
Once the steaming is done, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the fries in a large bowl, drizzle a tablespoon of avocado oil and stir to coat. Then add the spices and stir again. Lay the fries out single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 28 minutes, then flip the fries, rotate the pan and bake for 18 more minutes. If your slices are on the thin side or you don’t have a full tray, start checking at the 12 minute mark or they can burn. Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy. Store leftovers in the fridge and eat them cold or throw in a hot skillet for a few minutes to heat.
I also have a super quick and easy dipping sauce I prefer to ketchup for these fries. It’s extremely versatile and can used on all kinds of foods:
Smoky dipping sauce:
1/2 plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup avocado oil mayonnaise
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp liquid smoke
Combine all ingredients and stir until well blended.