Look What I Made: Root Veggie Chips

Chips! (photos by Travis Awalt)

It’s an awkward week for recipe bloggists — big holiday last week, Christmas isn’t for a month. Sigh. There’s nothin’ to do, man*! What am I gonna talk about, cheeky uses for Thanksgiving leftovers? You know years in advance the kinds of depraved things you’re going to do with your leftovers; you don’t need me to remind you that tacos are in play.

Alas, there’s a job to be done here. I’m not that big into snacking**, so I wouldn’t usually get too excited about something like chips. Likewise, I try to dispense with the superlatives in regard to my own recipes. Whatever, walls are coming down today.

These are the best mother-expletiving chips I’ve ever had.

This recipe has its “roots” (I had to), like so many, in a single ingredient (potatoes) and a fierce case of boredom. Fry up some potato chips? Don’t mind if I do. The test batch was decent. I inhaled it with a level of restraint you’d expect from a shop-vac. Next I tried sweet potatoes. Oh my. Pandora’s box. What followed over the next days and weeks was a flurry of slicing and frying, with practically anything that grows under dirt becoming fair game. By the time I found myself slicing up a beet, gently muttering to it about my intentions, I knew I had a problem. A delicious, delicious problem.

Brave little tubers

I’m into a little culinary iconoclasm, so I’ve gone with an assortment of tubers here. Some people might not be into that and that’s OK. Just make potato chips if that’s who you are as a snacker — I’m sorry for interrupting your NCIS marathon. As for everybody else, let’s get chippy.

Note: Consistent thickness to your slices is paramount here. Inconsistent slices will get you a gnarly combo of oily, limp chips and burnt-to-a-crisp chips, so unless you’re a robot and can be programmed to cut perfect 1/16th” slices, you need a mandoline slicer for this recipe. Also, you could certainly attempt baking these, but I’ve found that method to be rather trying. Regular ovens distribute heat unevenly, which gets you the same result as inconsistent slices. But a convection oven, with its even heat distribution, might work quite nicely.

Root Veggie Chips
(makes about an hour’s worth for 5 or 6 people)

Assortment of root vegetables (I used potato, sweet potato, garnet yam, beet and malanga root), sliced 1/16th inch thick
Oil for frying

1. Soak. Soak the starchy veggie slices in an ice water bath to draw out some of that starch, 30-60 minutes. If you’re using multiple veggies, keep them separate, as they have different cooking times (from 7 minutes for the garnet yam to 12 or more for potatoes and sweet potatoes). The malanga root literally oozes starch, so those slices may need more soaking time, and they’ll definitely need a rinse afterward. Beets aren’t starchy, so they don’t need to soak.

Soak the slices to remove some of the starch

2. Dry. Eliminating moisture is the name of the game here, so you want as little water as possible hitting the oil. Dry veggie slices on racks or towels, preferably with the assistance of a fan. Pat them dry if you’re pressed for time.

Get everything as dry as possible before frying

3. Fry. Heat your oil (I used peanut oil, nearly a gallon) to about 350 (med-hi for me). Fry the chips in batches, gingerly flipping every 3 minutes or so. Don’t mess with them too much or they’ll break apart. Watch them. When there is hardly any steam coming off of the oil, you’re almost there. Now listen to them. The chips are done when the sound of the oil bubbling sllooooows waaaay down — just like when you’re making popcorn and it’s done when the pops slow to every two seconds. When the bubbling slows to a lazy crawl, they’re done. Drain them, salt them, let them cool (the beets in particular crisp as they drain and cool) and devour or store for later devouring.

Still steamin’ away

*Oh right, except for my “real job for money,” which is how I make my living.
**Unless you count regular meals, in which case, yeah three or four square snacks a day.

(l-r) potato, malanga root, beet, sweet potato, garnet yam