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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sweet Potato Chips with Rosemary Salt

Today I had a little craving for sweet potato chips. They are one of my favorite snack foods, salty and sweet, fried, and yet made with a vegetable that has so many nutrients one can almost pretend they are healthful. As I geared myself up to face the long lines at Trader Joe's on a Saturday, just to buy a bag of chips, a thought occurred to me. I had sweet potatoes on hand, sitting innocently in a basket in my pantry, waiting for their use, or the moment at which they begin to sprout and have to be discarded- whichever happened first. I also had a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.

I haven't done much frying before. For the most part, frying food isn't worth it for me. I eat a fairly healthy diet (with an exception made for baked sweets...) get lots of exercise and don't eat fast food. Many foods that are fried don't appeal to me, or make me sick if I eat them, I suppose the latter may just be a sign. When I made tortilla soup last year, I fried my own tortilla chips to top the soup. That was my first time truly deep frying anything. I decided deep frying something once a year is something I am ok with. My next experience in frying is due.

I grabbed my  mandolin slicer, and started slicing thin rounds off the sweet potatoes. A slicer certainly made getting nice even and thin slices easier, but this could also be done with a sharp knife and a steady hand if you don't have the equipment on hand.

Over the last year one addition to my kitchen has been a candy thermometer. I decided to do this right, and make sure I achieve the proper temperature before frying these chips. The last time around I just waited until the oil seemed *really hot* and then watched the chips carefully to know when they were done. This time was about the same, except I waited until the oil seemed *really hot* and the thermometer gave me a reading above 175 Fahrenheit.

One by one I slid the chips into the oil, watched as the oil bubbled and crackled frenetically around them. After about a minute in the oil, the sides of each chip had started to curl, and the color started to darken slightly. I fished the chips that looked ready out of the oil with a slotted spoon, and lay them on a paper towel lined plate to rest.

While they cooked I quickly chopped up some fresh rosemary. I gave the rosemary a few swift chops, before combining it with sea salt on my cutting board, and chopping some more. My hope was that the oils released from the herb would infuse the salt.

I sprinkled the rosemary salt over my still warm chips, and began to snack. I have often found with junk foods, much to my disappointment, that the commercial product really does taste better.  But I have to say, these chips were just as good if not better than any bagged sweet potato chips I have encountered. With results this delicious, I may have to start deep frying more than just once a year. A certain number of indulgences just seem necessary, right?

An additional note: I did also try baking some as an alternative, I lay them out on a baking sheet, brushed them with oil and sprinkled with salt and rosemary before placing in a hot oven. These weren't bad, they were actually quite good, but not quite as crisp as the fried version. A good alternative to use a bit less oil, but sadly still not quite as good as the original.

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