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RBR Tailgating: Homemade BBQ Potato Chips

Just buying a bag at the store is infinitely easier, but passing these around by the stadium while you fire up the grill offers plenty of opportunities to soak in compliments and pretend like making them was no big deal.

When I was a kid, my sister liked sour cream and onion flavored chips and hated BBQ ones. I was the opposite; loved BBQ and hated sour cream and onion. We’ve both come along since then and are equal opportunity chip devourers, but in those incunabular days of my culinary awareness a very irrational and lasting impression was made. BBQ is for boys and sour cream and onion is for girls.

Forty or so years later and I still think “chick chips” when I see a guy in a hot dog joint or wherever eating from a bag of sour cream and onion chips. I’m not judging. I get sour cream and onion myself on occasion. But the thought is there. Those are for girls.

Going back to when I was a kid, my mother smoked cigarettes and my dad smoked a pipe and an occasional cigar. Irrational lasting impression: cigarettes are for women and pipes and cigars are for men. I remember being utterly baffled the first time I saw Grandpa smoking a cigarette. Had I grown up in today’s more enlightened time I would have simply noted the maleness is a societal invention and that, though burdened as we all are with whatever biological equipment was heedlessly planted between our legs, we can identify as cigarette, cigar, pipe, or any combination of. But it was a different time. “Granpa! Those are for girls!” I cried out.

Since this week promises the opportunity to be reminded of one of my early irrational lasting impressions as I smoke a cigar over the broken remains of a sub-standard team of snitches, I figure it might be fun to revisit the other. Might make me feel manly.

I had never made homemade flavored chips before yesterday but it was surprisingly easy despite the amount of time consumed. The spices are far from exotic and the type of stuff you’d expect to find in most modestly well stocked kitchen. The one thing I would suggest spending money on, if you haven’t already, is a mandoline. The Japanese mandoline I have cost me all of twenty five dollars and has served me well for years. It’s easy to clean too, provided you mind where the sharp bits are. You could use a knife to cut the chips, but doing so takes this from “moderately time consuming” to “how I spent my day.”

Homemade BBQ Potato Chips

- 4 - 5 Russett potatoes (about 2 lbs.)

- 1 tbsp chili powder

- 1 tbsp sweet paprika

- 1 tsp brown sugar

- 1 tsp onion powder

- 1 tbsp garlic salt

- pinch cayenne pepper

- vegetable oil

Peel the potatoes (or not if you like the skin on, but do clean them thoroughly) and slice them thinly on a mandoline. There’s no right or wrong to how thick you cut them. It’s your preference. Just keep in mind that the thinner they are the crisper they’ll get.

Put all the chips in a bowl of cold water and let them soak for at least twenty minutes and no more than an hour. Soaking removes starch which makes it easier to get a nice crispy texture (I know I used a the word “crisp” twice in barely a fifty word stretch of prosifying and it drives me crazy, but I can’t think of a suitable synonym and a thesaurus search gives me completely unsatisfying alternatives such as “frail,” “brittle,” and “splintery.” Sorry about that. We’re all bound by the limits of my imagination in this case.) Once done soaking, layer them on paper towels or pat dry.

Mix all the spices and sugar together and whisk thoroughly.

Add oil to your frying vessel. The amount of oil will vary depending on what you are cooking in. I used a wok and put in enough to easily submerge two handfuls of chips.

Ideally, you want the oil heated somewhere in the neighborhood of 375˚F. With the first batch, I brought the heat up to 375˚F, added the chips, and saw a drop in temperature to the mid two hundreds and never came back to the three hundreds until the chips were done. They turned out fine (and properly frail, brittle, and splintery) but took much longer than expected. For every other batch, of which there were seven, I brought the oil to 425˚F and when I added the chips my temp held steady in the mid three hundreds. That was much quicker.

The amount of time it took to cook the batches varied in my wok and since you might be using any manner of fry-daddy or skillet, I can’t give you a cooking time worth relying on. You pretty much have to babysit the pan and pull them when they look and feel (take one out and touch it - any complaints about burnt fingers in oil will be met with mockery) done.

Drain on a paper towel covered plate. While still warm, put them in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with a bit of the spice mixture, toss, taste, correct as needed, and put in yet another bowl to hold all your finished chips. I used a lot of bowls making this. Repeat with the spicing bowl and toss with as many batches as you make.

Repeat until done.

For $1.19 plus tax I bought a fifty pack of small brown lunch bags. Portion them out, bag them, and distribute to your friends. Tell them it was no big deal.

Hold a few back to have with your very manly victory cigar.

Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide.