Monday, October 19, 2009

Try Plain Potato Chips

Thanks to chefs like Ferran Adria and Michael Chiarello, plain unsalted potato chips are making it into stores. Food Network’s Michael Chiarello introduced the idea of creating a signature barbeque potato chip at home by mixing your own blend of spices over unsalted potato chips on an episode of Easy Entertaining. Andre Ferran blew the lid off making Spanish tortilla (the potato-onion stovetop frittata of Spain) using time saving unsalted chips in place of sliced potatoes cooked slowly in olive oil. Spanish home cooks took to it with enthusiasm and thanks to Anya von Bremzen, who included the technique in her wonderful cookbook, The New Spanish Table, American fans of Spanish cooking can whip up a great tortilla de patatas quickly too.

Unsalted potato chips have a refreshing taste of – surprise- potatoes. Many large manufacturers make them, including Wise and Lays. Some store brands have a plain, unsalted chip too. I like the Price Chopper store brand from the medium size chain of supermarkets in northeastern states. High quality at a great price.

Inspired by Michael Chiarello, I toss sea salt and smoked paprika on plain chips spread on a cookie sheet. Place the sheet of potato chips in a 250˚ oven and warm them for 10 minutes. This heats the oil on the chips and encourages the spices to stick nicely. Be stingy with the spices—less than a teaspoon or two goes a long way and can flavor a cookie sheet’s worth of potato chips. I’ve learned that I also like plain ones warmed up and in a pinch a little sea salt sprinkled on top at room temperature is nice too. The key is moderation. Let yourself taste the pure flavors you’ve created using the less is more approach. Your lips won’t swell up oddly after eating a batch (as many of us have experienced with store-bought flavors) and you will be rewarded with a specialty of the house that is your own blend of pure flavor. Other spices to try include cumin, finely ground black pepper, nutmeg/ginger for a fall-inspired treat, cayenne pepper, etc.

To keep quantities in line with reason, think about them as a side dish. Portion out a vegetable-sized portion alongside a sandwich or burger, then store the bag back in the pantry.