Thursday, October 19, 2006

Chips in the Microwave

Nandita posted a great recipe for "Almost Fat Free Sweet Potato Chips" on her blog, Saffron Trail. She found it on another blog, 28 Cooks.

Below is 28 Cooks' recipe for "Microtato Chips". I encourage you to click her link, if just for that beautiful chip pic she took to adorn her post1. Talk about stacked.
2 large potatoes, freshly scrubbed
cooking spray
parchment paper or wax paper
desired seasoning
a microwave

Thinly slice potatoes, using either a mandolin, or a regular vegetable peeler. Spray a sheet of parchment paper (or wax paper) lightly with cooking spray, and lay potatoes out in a single layer. Season with desired seasoning, and place in the microwave. Microwave on high, 5-7 minutes, until chips start to brown. Remove from the oven, and cool for a few seconds. Enjoy!

As easy as Nandita and Fiber from 28 Cooks made this sound, it took a little getting used to for me. But I was determined since fatty chips are the scourge of many a fanatic cook's friend.

The first few times using the microwave I was left with either a gummy mess or burnt crisps.

I decided to try the oven.

I drizzled a teaspoon of olive oil over thin slices of white potato and tossed. No, tossed isn't the right word. I slapped and rubbed 40-odd, cold, limp slices together until they were coated with oil. I then slapped and rubbed in about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. A tad time-consuming but it did leave my fingers nicely moisturized. I laid the oiled slices on an aluminum foil-covered cookie sheet - a mistake I paid for. There were some minor overlaps - another mistake I paid for. I put them in a 300ºF oven (that low temp was probably another mistake), set the timer (to count up, not down), and waited - periodically trying to disengage one gluey slice from another and turn. I removed them after 1 hour, 34 minutes, and 17 seconds (01:34:17).

Behold my acrylamide feast.

The pictures don't do these chips justice. They were an utter failure in so many ways. First, 40 chips in 01:34:17 doesn't square, not with my time-management geometry. And you could etch your name in a mirror with a shard of one of these cooled, golden-brown, oven-baked crystals. The FRE ate the whole batch, god bless his merciful palate. But, I knew, it was ...

Back to the microwave.

My goal was a crispy, evenly browned chip. I'm thinking that doesn't place me in a minority. All 4 samples below were microwaved on a rotating carousel for 4 minutes on parchment paper sprayed with PAM®. They were sliced from the same Yukon gold potato, on a mandolin, to about 1/16 inch thick.

Upper Left - Microwave power: High 100%, 4 min. Light coating of olive oil.
Upper Right - Microwave power: High 100%, 4 min. No oil.
Lower Left - Microwave power: Medium 50%, 4 min. Light coating of olive oil.
Lower Right - Microwave power: Medium 50%, 4 min. No oil.

Here's what worked for me:

Less Time
The 5-7 minutes recommended cooking time was too long. I was wiping smoke from the walls of my microwave. Four minutes worked better. As noted by others, this may be a microwave quirk.

Less Power
High power cooked unevenly. Some chips contained both burnt areas and chewy, undercooked areas. Power may be another microwave quirk.

Less Oil
The presence of fat hastened cooking, but much like high power that faster cooking resulted in a marbled-looking, unevenly cooked chip. Believe it or not, the crispiest and most evenly-browned chips were entirely fat-free - although one trades off mouth feel. (The Lower Right chip was unusual in that it was the darkest of the fat-free bunch, but I chose it to show more evenness in cooking.)

I'm happy with my 4-minute, 50% power, as-little-oil-as-will-make-the-salt-stick chip. Your experience may be different given the variability of microwave ovens, but do try it. Thanks to Nandita and Fiber I now have new uses for starchy vegetables and a microwave oven. To the bean-counters at TERRA® Chips, your competition is afoot.

1 As much as I love Fiber's photo, I can't figure why her fat-free chips shine like a fish out of water but mine look as dry as day-old bread crust (but tasty). I'd love to know her technique!

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