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Not-So-Unhealthy Cheese Fries Recipe

The classic diner food gets a much-needed—but still so delicious—makeover.
Not-So-Unhealthy Cheese Fries RecipeMitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

When we released our first list of the 20 Worst Foods in America back in 2007, Outback’s Aussie Cheese Fries occupied the top slot, packing an outrageous 2,900 calories and 182 grams of fat. While the steakhouse has managed to trim those numbers ever so slightly, the prospect of eating fried potatoes covered in cheese at a restaurant is still as dangerous as ever. This easy home version keeps the calories low by baking the potatoes until crisp, applying just the right amount of cheese, and using a few hunks of crumbled bacon and a handful of pickled jalapeños to give the impression of decadence without the four-digit damage.

Nutrition: 300 calories, 13 g fat (5 g saturated), 310 mg sodium

Serves 4

You’ll Need

2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄4″ fries
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chili powder
1⁄4 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese
4  slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
5  scallions, chopped
Pickled jalapeños

How to Make It

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Toss the potatoes with the olive oil, chili powder, smoked paprika (if using), and salt and pepper.
  3. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, until deep brown and crispy on the outside.
  4. Top with the cheese, bacon, and scallions, and return to the oven.
  5. Bake until the cheese is fully melted and beginning to brown.
  6. Garnish with pickled jalapeños.

Eat This Tip

How to Pickle Jalapeños

Don’t limit these chiles to Mexican food; try them on sandwiches and burgers, stir-fries, pizzas, or anything that would benefit from a sharp, spicy-sweet kick. This basic pickling technique can be applied to a variety of vegetables and fruit, from sliced red onions to parboiled green beans to sweet hunks of cantaloupe and watermelon.

You’ll Need

8–10 jalapeños
1 cup rice wine or cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar

How to Make It

  1. Cut the jalapeños into thin slices.
  2. If you like your peppers hot, cut all the way up to the stem; for a milder batch, stop a 1⁄2 inch before.
  3. Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a saucepan, and heat just enough so that the salt and sugar dissolve. Allow the liquid to cool briefly.
  4. Place the jalapeños in a sterilized jar or small mixing bowl. Pour the liquid over them, then cover, letting them soak for at least 10 minutes before using.
  5. Will keep for a week covered in the refrigerator.

Makes about 2 cups

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