Potato chips were practically invented for this moment in history. They are an irresistible escape from everything difficult about responsible grown-up life. But salt- and fat-wise, it can’t be entirely responsible to crunch mindlessly through a whole bag of them.
Now that we’re here drinking summer sangria (see opposite page), it’s worth noting that in Spain they have a way of dealing with that. (Though it’s also true they have a strangely immature thing for Pringles over there.)
Spanish tradition holds that good chips don’t come in shelf-stable bags. If you want a good potato chip, you have to go down to your neighborhood freiduría, a frying place you’ve chosen because they fry their chips in olive oil and you like the quality of the oil they use.
You take them home in a paper cone and put them in a bowl next to some olives, where they become a legitimate appetizer to set out with drinks. Add a dash of minced rosemary or a dusting of pimentón — Spanish smoked paprika — and they are elevated to special occasion food.
The problem with re-creating an excellent potato chip like that at home is not exactly that they’re difficult to make. It’s not even that you will use a lot of good olive oil to fry them — you can save and re-use the oil for sautéeing vegetables throughout the rest of the week afterwards. (Or I like to combine olive oil with peanut oil for frying.)
The problem is that they just don’t get crispy enough.
Turns out there’s a trick to that. Understanding why it works requires digesting some fun-to-read science-y stuff by the great explainer, J. Kenji López-Alt, author of the Food Lab column on Serious Eats. But straight to the chase here: chips get crisp when the moisture is bubbled out of them — and that doesn’t happen when they’re starchy. So, you have to slice them very thin and blast them with warm water spiked with a little vinegar (López-Alt goes even farther, parboiling the potatoes, but that’s for purists), then blot them dry, then fry them.
You will not be able to eat just one. Thankfully, making these is a whole lot easier than getting yourself to Spain right now.
Homemade Potato Chips
makes one large bowlful
Two big russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
2 Tbsp. vinegar
2 cups olive oil
2 cups peanut oil
Salt, pimentón, and minced rosemary
Slice the potatoes very thin, so the slices are flexible. It’s easy to do on a simple mandoline. I did that, setting it on 1/8-inch thickness.
Prepare a big bowl of hot water, stir in the vinegar, and drop in the potato slices. Let them soak for at least an hour.
Lay the potato slices out on a clean kitchen towel while you heat the oil in a saucepan. The oil should be about 325 degrees F, or warm enough to bubble briskly while you’re frying.
Blot the potatoes as dry as possible and drop them into the hot oil in small batches. Stir them only a little to keep them frying evenly, for about 10 minutes per batch.
Remove the chips to a plate to drain, dust with salt and a pinch of minced rosemary or pimentón, or both, and serve right away, while they’re warm.