On April 1, Kennywood Park announced the delay of its 2020 opening due to the outbreak of coronavirus in Pennsylvania. The amusement park postponed the May start date without setting a new one, noting that it was “too soon to confidently provide an opening date” but that they were “committed to reopening Kennywood this summer.”
For many Pittsburghers, this delay is about more than rollercoasters: It’s about fries. Now, with the postponed date, the city has to wait even longer to get their first taste of the park’s famous Potato Patch fries.
Thankfully, Patchy the Potato (Kennywood’s newest mascot — Kenny the Kangaroo is allegedly hiding out in the park for safety) is here to help. In a video posted by the park on social media, the potato — an actual potato stuck on a fork fit with googly eyes, a beret, and a bad French accent — tries to recreate the beloved fries.
I followed Patchy, who pops up in the video in the style of Microsoft’s retired assistant Clippy, with useless comments. At one point, for no reason, he starts singing Happy Birthday to potatoes being washed in a sink. The ingredient list was surprisingly short and the steps were simple. All you needed were potatoes, salt, an air fryer, and melted Velveeta brand cheese. The steps go as follows: wash, cut, and fry potatoes, then top with cheese sauce.
The first two steps went off without a hitch. (Though, I did mistakenly peel my first potato; skin stays on in the Potato Patch.) But without an air fryer, I had to get creative.
After a Google search, I came to the conclusion that my oven would do the trick. I layed out my cut potatoes on a sheet pan, doused them in more oil than I meant to, dusted them with salt, and threw them in the oven at 400 degrees for an uncertain amount of time. (Patchy said 380 degrees and 25 minutes in an air fryer, but those numbers did not translate to an oven.)
In the meantime, I melted my cheese. Instead of the microwave, I chose to stove-melt the brick of Velveeta – the kind of cheese that comes in a bright orange, strangely soft block and will never expire – adding in a bit of milk to thin out the dense sauce.
It took about 40 minutes for my fries to be fully cooked. The oven method worked quite well; my fries were crispy and golden. Following the video, I piled them on a plate and drowned them in cheese sauce.
“Mon Dieu!” exclaims Patchy in the video, gazing at the plate of homemade fries. “This is not the Potato Patch fries!”
And the potato is right. While my at-home Potato Patch fries weren’t necessarily bad, they didn’t even come close to the real thing. There was something about seeing and stirring the block of Velveeta as it melted, bubbling in a pot, that took almost all of the charm out of cheese-covered fries.
Kennywood is right when they say, “Leave the fries to us.”