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Issue 65 - Chip off the old block

Scotland Magazine Issue 65
October 2012

 

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Chip off the old block

Sue Lawrence lines up the ketchup and mayo and indulges her tuber-frying skills

In an investigation over a decade ago by Heinz of how people use their ketchup, leading psychologists probed the crucial link between ketchup usage and personality. Whether you dip or douse your chips says more about your introversion or self-esteem than about your dexterity in getting the sauce from the bottle onto your chips. So, a “dipper” is fastidious, cautious and exact; a “douser” is direct, persistent and hard-working. Isn’t education a marvellous thing?

One aspect that was not covered is the mayonnaise-dunking factor (my own favourite), not to mention the malt vinegar-sprinklers, brown saucedippers and chip butty spreaders.

However perhaps even the most enthusiastic chipdunkers need to polish up their tuber-frying skills. For how many establishments actually serve memorable chips these days?

It is important to point out that it is chips, not “frites” or French Fries we are talking about. Thin burger-chain “fries” are fine if you like high-fat food (thin chips absorb far more oil than thick chips) that tastes of cardboard.

But it is fat, crispy-edged chips with fluffy or even slightly soggy inners that are truly British – and these are the ones that are perfect for dunking into mayonnaise or dousing liberally (depending on your psychological profile) with ketchup.

Ask most restaurant chefs their tip for producing perfect restaurant chips and they will tell you you must pre-cook or blanch the chips first in hot fat before frying them again to make them crispy. The variety of potato is crucial, many Scottish Chefs’ preference being Maris Piper. Either this or another floury potato such as Pentland Dell, Fianna or Record is good for home-made chips.

French chef Joel Robuchon insists that they ought to be salted twice: once lightly with finely ground salt which is absorbed into the chips’ surface and then a second time with sea salt flakes to add an extra salty tang. Whether you opt for single or double salting, be sure to do it just before serving or they soon become soggy.

The choice of fat is also crucial; though most chip shops tend to use vegetable oil now to fry, purists say the best flavour still comes from dripping, lard or even goose fat. Would you believe that not that long ago, Parisian gourmets used to flock to one particular restaurant in the 7th arrondissement for the chef’s special - “frites” cooked in horse fat. These were apparently the lightest and crispest chips simply because of the unique choice of fat. Whichever type of fat you use, be sure it is really hot; tepid fat will be absorbed into the potato and not crispen. The fat must also be clean, so if you are re-using, be sure to filter. Also, be sure to dry uncooked chips well, since more fat is absorbed if the surfaces are moist.

Once you have your perfect chips, the choice of what to serve them with is endless. Fish or steak are traditional, but you could also opt for the Dundee classic, the Buster - a plate of mushy marrowfat peas and chips, all liberally doused with vinegar. Or consider one of most exclusive dishes on the menus of many top restaurants in the UK: lobster and chips. This treat comprises a half lobster served with thin chips and good, home-made mayonnaise. Although splendid, an even better - and infinitely cheaper - option is to buy a lobster from the fishmonger, cook it yourself then, while it is still warm, rush off to the chip shop for a pile of freshly-made chips. On your return, you will hopefully find your fellow diner with sleeves rolled up, tackling the lobster to remove all the succulent meat, having just opened the essential bottle of chilled white wine. For this sublime treat – as with the more humble Dundonian Buster – there are times when only chip shop chips will do.

Sweet Potato Chips

3 sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into thin slices
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

Toss everything together, season with sea salt and pepper then tip onto a baking sheet and roast at 200C / 400F for 45 minutes or until tender . They are now tender but soft, so zap under a hot grill until crisp and golden

Griddled Chips

500g / 1 lb 2 oz waxy / salad potatoes
3 tbsp oil


Scrub the potatoes and boil, unpeeled, until just tender. Drain, pat dry then when cool enough to handle, cut into thick chips / wedges and place in a bowl with oil and sea salt, tossing to coat. Heat a griddle pan to hot then char-grill the potatoes for four to five minutes or until golden brown.

Chips

3 large “chipping” potatoes, peeled, cut into thick chips
vegetable oil / dripping, to deep-fry


Place chips in bowl of cold water to remove excess starch then pat thoroughly dry. Fry in hot oil/dripping at 160C for five to six minutes or until tender but pale. Increase heat to 190C/375F and cook the chips for about three minutes or until golden brown, shaking the pan often. Drain on kitchen paper. Season with sea salt.

Oven Chips

3 large “chipping” potatoes, peeled, cut into thick chips / wedges
2 tbsp olive oil


Place the chips in a bowl of cold water then drain and pat well dry. Tip onto a baking sheet with the oil and turn with your hands until well coated in oil. Place in a preheated oven ( 200C / 400F) for 45 to 50 minutes, turning once, until golden brown and tender. Drain on kitchen paper, season with sea salt.

Caesar Mayo

3 heaped tbsp best mayonnaise
3 - 4 anchovy filets, finely snipped
1 small garlic clove, peeled, crushed
2 tbsp finely grated parmesan
the juice of 1 lemon


Mix everything together then season to taste.
Use for chip-dunking.