It Was Worth It!

potatoes

They don't know what's going to hit them.

Our story so far…

Goddamnit, why can’t I make potato chips? Potato chips are by a long stretch my favourite junk food, and they just so happen to be impossible to make with anything less than a medium sized factory. Oh, I’ve seen recipes. Recipes, recipes, recipes, all over the internet. “These are my favourite potato chips ever!” “My family eats them all in seconds whenever I make these!” “They’re light, crispy, tasty, and even good for you!”

Read a few of those recipes and you will notice no one ever claims “indistinguishable from the real thing.” No one ever managed to convince a small child that their home-cooked burger was in fact superior to McDonalds. And I suspect, behind all those laudatory comments, the kids were more happy not to be eating creamed spinach than overjoyed that mum or dad had whipped up another amazing batch of their super-special patented homemade potato chips.

I am genuinely curious as to why I can’t manage to make good chips. I have tried several techniques (oven baked, fried, grilled). I have experimented with the species and age of potato and the thickness of the slice. I have basted with oil, with butter, with nothing. I have seasoned before and I have seasoned after. The result, which is only sometimes better than creamed spinach, is always a sad disc, dotted with blackened charmarks in places, paper-thin and brittle in sections and disintegrating into a puddle of oil in others. Why can I not achieve the ephemeral lightness of a translucent, crispy, golden potato chip? It’s not fair. Homemade popcorn is just as good as store-bought. As Matt’s posts demonstrate, ice cream and chocolate treats orders of magnitude above store-bought in quality are perfectly feasible to the home aficionado. Why not potato chips?

Present day…

After getting this far in the post I was writing, I realized I was taking this potato chip thing seriously. So I went out and bought a deep fryer.

My pain was that deep.

Damn Fine Homemade Potato Chips (Indistinguishable From the Real Thing)

Yukon Gold potatoes (probably only one… they go a long way)

Salt

No.

No.

The first trick is to slice the potatoes to the thickness of only four molecules. This is achieved with a mandoline. A mandoline is a musical instrument with strings so fine that if you strum it with a potato while playing a tune (I prefer Knocking on Heaven’s Door) you will end up with a perfect mound of potato slices. No, I’m kidding, a mandoline is a kitchen tool that converts whole vegetables into perfect, thickness-controlled slices (okay, it was a bad joke, but when else am I going to get to use it?). Make sure you use the safety guard on the mandoline, unless you want slightly shorter fingers. If you have superior knife skills you can try cutting your own potato chips. I don’t.

Place the potato slices in a bowl of ice water and let sit for 15 minutes.

The second trick is that you will have to fry your potato slices twice. Oh come on, you came this far, didn’t you? Stay with me.

Heat your nice new deep fryer to 300F. The best oil to use for this is peanut oil, which is kind of pricey, but you want amazing chips, don’t you? Drain and dry the potatoes very well. This is important, because if the slightest bit of water gets in the hot oil, your house will explode and you will spend the rest of your agonized life a disfigured wreck (hey, they’re worth the risk). Place some slices in a single layer in the basket, and give it the treatment.

frying

Let it fry for about 3 minutes, then take out the slices, drain them on paper towels, and repeat with the next batch of slices until they’re all done.

Increase the fryer temperature to 375F. Refry all the fried slices for 3-4 minutes until they are golden and crispy and perfect. Drain them on paper towels and sprinkle with salt, or pepper, or whatever. One recipe I read suggested sprinkling them with unsweetened lime Kool-Aid for a salt-and-vinegar effect.

That is almost tempting.

chips

10 comments to It Was Worth It!

  • nah on the Kool Aid . . . I know you’re clever enough to come up something less fake for your crisps. They look awesome. So when are we having a potato chip and ice cream get-together?

  • Rachel Martin

    Looks yummy!

  • Matt – maybe we should try deep-fried ice cream.

  • WarPig

    Fried ice cream IS a reality. And darned good tasting, too. I used to get it at Chi-Chis back before they went belly up, at least in this area. Too much trouble to make at home. Tater chips are usually too much trouble to make at home, too. There is a local brand which fries in peanut oil and adds no preservatives or other chemistry other than salt. They always sell out so no problems with storage. They come in a heat sealed and stapled, wax-paper bag.

    You hit upon the secret for frying tater chips, frying twice, which is what our local maker does. I prefer peanut oil.

    There is a small restaurant with tremendously great food near Rocky Fork Lake in Ohio. Their pies are to kill for (made locally by elder women) and they sell an appetizer called “lake chips”. They fry theirs on the dark side, as if you made them in Texas or other southern states. Yeah, potato chip companies make their product slightly different for each region. They then drain them and cover them with melted Cheese Whiz(R), bacon crumbles and finely sliced green onions, with sour cream on the side for dipping (ranch dressing on request for those who don’t like sour cream).

    Wonderful. Much better and tastier even than the cheesy-bacon french fries many steakhouses serve.

    Try it sometime. You’d be surprised at how well sour cream goes with homemade, crunchy, salty chips – even without the Cheese Whiz, bacon and green onions.

  • Libby

    You might want to emphasize the importance of using the guard on the mandolin. Unless, of course, you are trying to permanently change (damage) your fingerprints. They’ll never pin that one thing that happened that one time on me now!

  • Good points, WarPig and Libby. I added notes about the oil and the safety guard. These things are important.

  • Or potato chips dipped in chocolate and crushed as a topping or swirled through a vanilla. Of course, then there’s the option to get really greasy about it and dip scoops of that in batter and fry the heck out of ‘em, roll the result in chocolate, then roll that in crushed potato chips. Salty-sweet, crunchy-creamy overkill comfort food.

  • WarPig

    Chocolate covered chips crushed as a topping is a marvelous idea. Never thought of that one before.

  • WarPig

    Good point about using the mandolin slicer (and safety guard), Daniel. While it is possible to cut chips that thin by hand with tons of practice (and shedding some blood, likely), it is horribly tedious as you’ll want to slice up a huge pile of them (who eats just one?) and it would take you all day and then some.

    The first potato chips were cut by hand (remember the story?) a mandolin is safer, faster and far, FAR more consistent.

  • Joal

    All I could think as I read the introduction was “THANK GOD IT’S NOT JUST ME”.