prep time: 40 min | cook time: 30 min
For those who went to school at MSU in East Lansing like me, HopCat may bring reminders of being the most high-end place you’d go to eat with friends in college. Their $5 burger + beer happy hour special is something I remember fondly. And we all love their Crack Fries (now rebranded as Cosmik Fries, because of DRUGS). The beer-battered, salty-sweet goodness of these fries always accompanied a cold and refreshing craft brew. I believe HopCat was one of the first places I remember realizing that beer existed that wasn’t Coors Light.
A couple years ago (yes, years) I set out on trying to recreate the recipe. Due to my own procrastination, perfectionism, needing breaks from the frustration of attempting to recreate a recipe, and the fact that I do have a paying job I need to tend to before my hobbies, cracking this recipe has taken me a while to actually publish. And even now, I don’t think it’s perfectly foolproof… but I’ve decided that if I waited for that, none of these recipes would ever get published.
These instructions can get wordy, but I promise it’s the result of much testing and evaluation of these GODDAMN fries that took me so long to get right. Read the instructions before starting, and crack a cold beer to drink during the process. I hope you enjoy. This was a true labor of love.
- Fry Oil: DO NOT DUMP DOWN THE DRAINNNNNNN. Don’t do it. It’s bad for your plumbing. Some people dispose of it by putting the oil in containers when done frying and tossing in the trash, but I feel this is wasteful. I recommend reusing for as long as possible. Use a liquid measuring cup to transfer oil to jars and pour through a mesh sieve so you remove the solids – this keeps the oil as clean as possible for when you fry again or just use it on a pan to cook with. The oil will still be less “clean” after multiple uses of frying, so I would move to reusing for cooking once you’ve strained it or toss when you feel you don’t want to deal with it anymore.
- You can also reduce the amount of oil needed by shallow-frying in a wok. I haven’t tested this myself but I will update if/when I do.
- Dutch oven, or a thick pot if you don’t have one
- Deep fry thermometer
- Baking rack + baking sheet to drain oil (you can use paper towels if you are really in a pinch but it could cause fries to not be as crisp)
- Spider or slotted spoon
- Chef’s Knife
- Mixing Bowls
serves about 6 (or 1, if it’s me eating)
- 2 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 large potatoes)
- 12-ounce can of any lager
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- A few grinds of fresh black pepper
- Canola oil for frying, or any other oil with a high smoke point (vegetable oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil). Probably need around 64 ounces (enough to fill your Dutch oven with 3 to 4 inches oil).
FOR THE SEASONING
*adjust amounts to taste – depending on what spices you buy/how coarse their grind is the amounts may vary slightly*
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 Tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Gather a dutch oven and fill it with enough fry oil to fill about 3 inches of the pot. Depending on your pot size, the amount of oil you need will vary. For a 4-quart dutch oven, I needed about 48 ounces of oil. If you don’t have a dutch oven, another thick pot will do, just keep in mind it may not retain heat as well and watch your fries for indicators of when they should come out.
- Heat oil to 300 degrees F over low heat. This will take a little bit. As it gets close to the desired temperature, adjust the flame to low so that it doesn’t rise too much higher.
- Peel potatoes and rinse under cold water. Cut into uniform fry pieces, about ¼” to ½” thick.
- Put the pieces in a bowl of cold water and shake them around in the water for a bit. This will rinse some of the starches off and keep them from sticking to each other in the first fry. Drain the water and rinse one more time quickly.
- Mix the flour, salt, and black pepper together in a mixing bowl. Don’t add the beer yet as we want to make sure the carbonation is pretty fresh before frying.
- Mix seasoning ingredients together in another bowl.
Note: even with a deep fry thermometer, it’s hard to completely regulate oil temperature and cook time from kitchen to kitchen due to varying equipment, cooktops, etc. Pay attention to your fries as they cook and make adjustments as necessary.
- Working in batches so as not to overcrowd the pot, gently lower the plain, cut fries into the 300 degree F fry oil. Fry for about 5 minutes, keeping an eye on them. Pull the fries out with a spider or slotted spoon when they look lightly golden – you do not want them golden brown yet. Set on baking rack set over a baking sheet so excess oil can drip off.
- Once all fries have gone through the first fry, up the temperature to 375 degrees F.
- When the oil is almost heated, mix the beer into the flour mixture. Coat the fries in the batter just before dropping into the oil. (I’ve found that sometimes the fries will stick together here due to the batter, which hasn’t bothered me or other friends making it, but if you have suggestions on how to achieve perfectly separated yet fully battered fries… write me!)
- Fry for 1 minute, until golden brown.
- Repeat with as many batches as necessary and sprinkle seasoning evenly over each batch of fries as they come out of the oil. The seasoning sticks much better when the fries are still very hot as opposed to when they’ve been sitting for a little bit.