LET’S COOK IT: Nout’s super crispy potato chips and homemade tartar sauce

Even though I’ve been living in Portugal now for over 5 years, I can still get incredibly nostalgic for the chips stands (Americans: read “French fries”) that you have on the market square in the cuteness overloaded city of Bruges, my home town. Or just walking into a chip shop after a long night out drinking beer and killing your munchies with some good chips and mayonaise. It’s quite a gastronomic experience in itself and never exactly the same thing when you make it at home (chips really should be eaten from a cardboard box out on a medieval street at 4 am in the morning). Keeping that in mind, this recipe will give you amazing chips every time, crispy on the outside, fluffy inside, as if you would bite into a caramelized piece of cloud. You can serve them with a burger or deep fried battered fish and mushy peas as they do in England, but when they’re good like that, I would just serve them as they are with the homemade tartar sauce and a mustard dressed salad with some home-pickled onion and cucumber. This should serve about 4 people and in total this recipe takes about 3 to 4 hours to make, you really need that time, otherwise it just won’t work.

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Basic things:
Olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

Vegetables:
1 kilo of floury potatoes (make sure they’re floury, otherwise it just won’t work), pealed and chopped into chips-shapes

To deep fry
Olive oil and sunflower oil, I would say about 50-50: the sunflower will give nice colour to your chips but the olive oil will flavour them beautifully. It’s a matter of taste though, traditionally, you fry the real Belgian chips only in sunflower oil, but we’re in Portugal.

Herbs, spices and condiments:
2 egg yolks
1 tsp of mustard
1-2 tbsp of good quality vinegar (there’s a biological one called Eira Velha, red or white wine vinegar, I also like to have some regular white wine vinegar and put a branch of fresh tarragon in there: the vinegar will soak up the flavours and it’s perfect for this mayonaise)
400 ml sunflower oil
100 ml good quality olive oil
salt & pepper
lemon juice
1 small clove of garlic
1 tbsp of capers and gherkins
1 small shallot, chopped as finely as possible

Garnish:
Parsley

Necessary:
Proper, coarse, good quality sea salt. Preferably fleur de sel if you have that. Or the course salt from Aveiro is just as good.

Chips

 

Let’s cook it!

  1. Leave your potato chips in a colander under the tap for about 5 minutes, or until the water comes out clear from under the colander.
  2. Cook the potato chips in well salted water with a very soft boil (that way you have more control and won’t end up with potato soup) until they are VERY soft but not falling apart. Carefully lift them out of the water with a fish slice and lift them unto a tray and let them steam. When they’re cold enough to handle, CAREFULLY shake the tray just a bit so that you get cracks forming on the side of the potatoes. This will give you the gift of crispness.
  3. Then you have to play the waiting game: if possible, lift your chips onto a metal oven rack and place them in the fridge for a couple of hours. You might also try to speed this process up by putting them in the freezer, but you’ll need some space in the freezer and you cannot put them in too long, otherwise they’ll freeze and then it won’t work either.
  4. Contemplate your life: pet / write a poem about your cat (or get one if you don’t already have one), make love, open a bottle of wine or try to act like a regular human being in another way. Woody Allen films are pretty good time killers too, two of them should suffice.
  5. After about three hours, your potato chips to be should be super chill. Now that you’ve assured yourself about that, know that everything is going to be fine: start heating up your deep fryer until about 180°C and in the meantime, we’ll make some mayonaise.
  6. Get your two egg yolks and with a whisker, whisk in the mustard and the vinegar until it’s all nicely mixed. From there, SLOWLY start adding your sunflower oil and when I say slowly, I mean: drip by drip. The slightest slip up could split your mayonaise and that’s not what you want at all. Keep on dripping away and if you see that it’s forming a nice emulsion, you can be a bit more confident and keep adding your oil. Finally, whisk in some good olive oil (I personally love the flavour of olive oil in mayonaise, but not too much, otherwise it gets too cloy on the palate) and squeeze and mix in the juice of about half a lemon and season to taste with salt and pepper (better to do this now than at the beginning of the process). Keep balancing with lemon juice and salt until you’re happy with the taste of it.
  7. This one is optional: you can also add some finely chopped capers, gherkins, shallots and parsley to your mayonaise and I also like to have garlic in there too. Get a small clove of garlic, finely slice it and sprinkle table salt over it. Crush the garlic with the blade of your knife and you’ll end up with a very fine paste which you can stir into your mayonaise too.
  8. Now it’s time to fry. With your fryer heated to 180°C, put in your cold chips (don’t put in too much at once, otherwise your oil will start to lose temperature) and fry them until they’re golden brown. Get them onto some kitchen paper to catch the oil, sprinkle with your finest salt and serve. Yummy yummy in my tummy!
  9. You can also do a double fry: first fry the chips on 150°C until they’re firm and starting to become golden and then put them back in the fridge again for an hour or two. To be honest though, Nora prefers the single fried chips because they’re not as heavy, the crust is a bit more delicate and you have more fluffy interior. It’s a matter of personal taste though and we’d love to hear in the comment box how this recipe worked out for you and what you preferred!
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