Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Home Made Potato Chips

My downfall is a plate of home made chips. No matter how far back on the lowest shelf in the pantry I jam the bag, it manages to wiggle front and center when the hunger monkey taps on my shoulder. My favorites are Lays Salt and Vinegar Chips. They are sooooo spicy – I literally fry my mouth every time I eat them, and yet I still buy them.
Recently, I was lunching with the gals. We ordered bacon, lettuce and tomato panini sandwiches with mozzarella … yumm!! Before the sandwiches arrived, the waitress plopped down a couple baskets of warm potato chips. Yumm, viola! I was inspired, and to the kitchen I ran.
The secret to great home made chips is three-fold. You need a mandoline, very hot oil, and seasoned salt. A mandoline is a food slicer that allows you to cut the food very, very thin. Of course, there are many more applications for this utensil, like attachments that julienne veggies and create waffle fries. You can purchase a hand-held mandoline for a few dollars or blow the budget on a chef’s quality stainless steel professional mandoline slicer. Which ever product you choose, keep in mind this one little thing – protect your finger tips, these tools are sharp.
Many cooks prefer frying in peanut oil, but my favorite is canola oil: it’s light, with no overwhelming flavor and the taste of the potato comes shining through. I begin by heating the oil in a skillet with deep sides. Use the tip of a wooden spoon to determine whether the oil is hot enough to get started. It will bubble when the oil is hot, hot. Fry the potato slices in batches. Don’t overcrowd the pan and watch carefully. When golden on one side, carefully flip over and fry until golden on the second side. The whole process takes about a minute. Drain the chips on paper towels on a baking sheet, and then place into an oven heated to 150°. This will further crisp up the chips.
You can simply season the chips with salt. But, you can own the chips by seasoning with combinations of your favorite spices. I like sea salt mixed with a tad of smoky paprika and a pinch of herbs de Provence. For sweet potato fries, I like to create a Cajun seasoning mix by combining chili powder, cinnamon and cumin. Use your imagination for the perfect seasoning blend. The secret is to season the chips immediately after you transfer them to the paper towels.
A russet potato makes the best potato chips. You needn’t peel the potato; the skin has extra nutrients. Don’t limit your chip expertise to potatoes. Use sweet potatoes, beets, celery root, parsnips, even carrots. If you can slice it thin and fry it, you can call it a chip!
Take a look at my recipe for Home Made Potato Chips with Caramelized Onion Dip for a special snack treat. A bit of effort yields a ton of flavor!

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