Would you like to hear a funny conversation between a traditional-food-eating mom and a Fit Gentleman Shopper concerning fried potatoes? Read on.
One of our favorite real food treats is homemade veggie chips. I’ve sliced up all sorts of veggies on my mandolin and dropped them in hot fat to see what will happen. It’s a worthy experiment, I promise!
We regularly eat butternut squash chips and orange sweet potato chips, and they’re both very good, but my absolute favorite right now are chips made with Japanese White Sweet Potatoes. They fry up just right without burning too quickly, and they stay crispy for a long while after cooking (the squash chips have to be eaten immediately as they get soft rather quickly).
So a couple weekends ago I was shopping at my local farmers’ market, baby on my back, toddler at my side. As I’m picking out a large bag of white sweet potatoes, a Fit Gentleman Shopper, fresh from a bout of yoga in the park, steps near the booth. Clearly a regular at the market, he is proudly helping a few companions navigate the different booths and the array of produce. He steps in next to me and starts singing the praises of the White Sweet Potato, a lower starch alternative to the evil white potato that tastes like… (his companions wait eagerly, as this is the first white sweet potato they have encountered)… a buttered white potato! He notes the large bag I’m collecting and I comment that yes, they are very similar to regular white potatoes and we enjoy them very much, to which he replies that they don’t taste like “white potatoes,” they taste like “buttered white potatoes.” I smile, finish my selection, and as I put my bag on the scale I innocently mention how they also make fantastic homemade chips when you slice them thin and deep fry them.
At the words “deep fry”, the Fit Gentleman Shopper’s head does a cartoon double-take and his mouth drops open. He quickly scoops up his jaw and shoots a look and a little snicker towards his companions and says, “Oh, honey, I would never fry them. I might slice them and bake them up into delicious little potato buttons though.”
“Oh,” I reply, “Potato buttons. Sounds lovely.”
As I gather my potatoes and my toddler to head to the next farmer, the little group exchanges raised eyebrows which, if I am interpreting my Fit Gentleman Shopper’s nonverbal speech correctly, say, “Oh dear, can you imagine what else she is feeding those poor children? I hope she takes my baked-potato-buttons idea to heart!”
It’s probably a good thing I didn’t mention that I prefer to deep fry in pure lard, or that when I want something to taste buttered, I put real butter on it; his Fit Gentleman Heart might not have been up to the news, and his companions might have thought it necessary to have some child protection agency follow me home and confiscate my lard.
Now, I’m well aware that my view of healthful eating runs counter to that of the Mainstream Health Nut at this point, but I have done enough research and seen enough first-hand results to be completely confident in what I eat and feed my family. A few snickers from a Fit Gentleman Shopper and his market companions don’t bother me at all, and I definitely know better than to offer unsolicited justifications for my lard habit; he doesn’t want to hear about the health benefits of natural fats any more than I want to hear about whole grains, low fat dairy, vegetable oils, and lean proteins. But if you’d rather have a crispy fried white sweet potato chip than a dry baked white sweet potato button (that, I promise, does not taste like it has butter on it unless you actually put butter on it), then it’s really pretty simple.
Tips for home frying potato chips:
- Safety! Hot fat burns. Bad. Use a back burner and always turn pot handles in so they aren’t hanging over the edge of the stove top (did you know that handles extending over the edge of the stove top is the number one cause of kitchen accidents?), especially with kids in the house. Most veggies and potatoes have a fair amount of water in them that will make the hot oil or fat bubble up when you drop them in, as well as produce a lot of initial steam, so use a tall pot and long utensils.
- Use a good, stable fat. Don’t fry in most vegetable oils – the molecules get all messed up at the high temperatures and turn very bad for you. Lard, tallow, and coconut oil are great choices.
- Uniform slicing is key, paramount even. A mandolin is almost a requirement for this unless you have ninja knife skills, but again, go with safety. Any decent mandolin will slice the top of your finger off without skipping a beat. They come with hand guards for a reason, people!
- Don’t walk away. These go from perfect to burned in literally a few seconds.
- If you don’t want to use gallons of fat or oil, use a smaller pot and fry more batches. I often use a medium/large sauce pot with a few inches of lard in the bottom, frying only a large handful of potato slices at a time. They cook so quickly that it doesn’t bother me to wait through five or six batches.
- Use a thermometer. If you go too hot, the fat can smoke or quickly burn your chips without cooking off the moisture (so your chips aren’t just burned, they’re soggy and burned – weird). If you start with the fat not hot enough, the potatoes will absorb the fat instead of cooking in it (again, soggy chips). So use a thermometer to be sure the frying medium is at 375 degrees before starting, and let the fat come back up to temperature between batches.
- Don’t forget to sprinkle with some good sea salt while they’re still hot!
So, in a nutshell:
- Scrub your potatoes well (I prefer to leave the skin on) and slice thin. My favorite setting on my mandolin is 1.3mm for white sweet potatoes. Super thin (.5mm) is nice also, but they cook in seconds, so be ready!
- Heat fat to 375 degrees in a pot with high sides.
- Fry potato slices in batches. Don’t crowd the pot with too many – there should be plenty of room for them to move around freely.
- Paper thin slices (.5mm on my mandolin) cook in less than 30 seconds. Thicker ones (1.3mm or 2mm) will take a minute or two.
- Use a slotted spoon, tongs, or wire spider to remove the potatoes when they just get a hint of brown going. For some reason, they are always darker than they looked once you have them out.
- Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt.
These are the thicker sliced chips (1.3mm) served alongside a grassfed beef burger topped with pickled watermelon rind salsa. These have a great sweet potato chip crunch.
You could also pack them in a paper bag for a picnic snack, or just stand there and eat them as soon as they’re salted. These paper thin chips are light and crispy and almost dissolve in your mouth.
So, would you go for baked buttons or fried chips?