published about 1 hour ago
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For me, one of the greatest joys of attending culinary school was that it renewed my love for potatoes. Sure, I could appreciate such a versatile root vegetable before school, but it wasn’t until I completed my training that I realized that this humble ingredient is as special as they come. There are so many ways to prepare it. Among other things, culinary school taught me that it’s OK to play with your food — and there is lots of playing to be had with potatoes.
To make these smiley fries, start by boiling a few peeled Yukon gold potatoes in heavily salted water. Once they’re knife-tender, drain them and let them cool slightly. Next, grate them on the large holes of a box grater. To the grated potatoes, mix in cornstarch and any spices of your choosing (like garlic powder or paprika). Weigh the potato mixture into 30-gram servings and shape them into round, 1/2-inch-thick discs.
Poke eyes into the discs with a straw and use a small knife to carve out a curved, mouth-like shape. Let them sit in the fridge for an hour before frying them in 350°F oil. After frying, slide them onto a paper towel-lined sheet pan and give them one last seasoning of salt. Enjoy with your favorite french fry dipping sauce.
Making and consuming these smiley potatoes was an absolute rush of joy. Seriously, I think I had too much fun making them. Sure, it might not have been the most straightforward recipe (boiling, grating, shaping, chilling, frying, etc.), and thawing a bag of frozen smiley fries sure would have been a lot quicker, but I quite enjoyed the process of shaping and frying them. Of course, there is no real need to make these other than craving a fun, nostalgic project — which seems like a legit reason to me.
The best part for me was carving out the smiles. This required a little bit of practice and finesse, but I got better at it as I did more. The first couple of smiles that I carved out were hilarious. Each smiley had its own unique expression that could really tell a story — I loved that the handmade aspect of these gave each face their own special personality. (Do I sound like I have too much time on my hands? Be honest.)
My hope was that I’d be able to find some of the pre-made, frozen kind, but unfortunately I was unable to get my hands on a bag. Have they been discontinued? Are we amidst a potato smiley drought? I need answers. Alas, I did not have any control group to compare my smileys to, but I can confirm that I was quite pleased with the results of my homemade batch. Whether you’re looking for an exciting, kid-friendly project, or you just want to unleash your inner child, making these was super fun and relatively easy.
My #1 Tip for Making Smiley Fries
Don’t get too caught up with measurements. This was a pretty straightforward recipe to eyeball. Boil as many potatoes as you plan to eat (three to four medium Yukon golds are great for four to six people). Add enough cornstarch so that the grated potatoes come together like a dough and as much spice as you like. You can always fry off a small nub of the potato mixture before shaping them to make sure they’re well-seasoned. Ultimately, this shouldn’t be a stressful cooking project. In fact, it should be all smiles.