This was my mother’s signature dish. Everybody knew her potatoes. Every friend who came to our house to eat would always come back and ask, “Can you ask your mother to make the fried potatoes again?”
Don’t worry too much about cutting the potatoes into even sticks, or making sure they are all cooked uniformly. These potatoes are not fussy at all and shouldn’t be perfect, though I am still trying to make them as well as my mother.
Peel the potatoes and soak for at least 2 hours in a bowl of cool water. (I am not sure why you should do this; the potatoes just taste better when you do.) Remove the potatoes from the water and cut lengthwise into ¼ to ½-inch sticks. The sticks do not need to be even or of uniform size.
Heat about 2½ cups or about 1 inch oil in a medium skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking.
While the oil is heating, dry the potatoes with a kitchen towel the best you can and prepare the garlic: Using the heel of your palm, gently crush each whole unpeeled clove, just enough to break the skin, which allows the flavor to infuse the oil.
When the oil is hot, add the sage and garlic and let them sizzle for a couple of seconds.
Then all at once, carefully add the potatoes. The oil should be at the same level as the top the potato sticks; it should not cover them completely (as in deep-frying).
Keep the flame on high or medium-high; it might take moment or two for the oil to start bubbling, but it will if it is at the right temperature. Once the oil bubbles, check the flame; it should be medium to high. Cook, turning the potatoes once or twice with a large spoon or tongs, until a nice golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove the finished potatoes, sage, and garlic from the oil with a strainer and drain on paper towels to absorb the extra oil. Season with salt to taste and serve warm with the garlic.