Specialties of the House: Chips, Dips, and Nachos


So if you haven’t read the article I did on deep frying, do so now because you need to know those basics before you can use the tips in here. Because if you’ve never had homemade tortilla or potato chips, you don’t know what you’re missing. And it’s so incredibly easy, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this all the time! Keep them in an air-tight gallon zip-top baggie and they’re good for a week (though they won’t last longer than a night, trust me).

chips-643_640Photo by Pixabay, Public Domain

Making the Chips

Want potato chips? Get some russet potatoes (1 lb is about the same as a regular sized bag of store-bought), scrub them well or peel and wash them, then slice them using a mandolin or V-slicer as thick as you like. Put a small handful (no more than 10) in 300 degree oil for 3-4 minutes, moving gently so they don’t stick together, and pull them to drain when they’re golden brown. Salt immediately after pulling.

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Corn chips? Even easier. Get quality corn chips, stack them up, and cut them using a chef’s knife or a pizza cutter. Quarters get you restaurant style large chips, sixths will get you smaller sized like Doritoes. Fry in 370 degree oil for 45-90 seconds, doing no more than 6 large chips or 10 small ones at once. Pull them when they’re golden brown and salt immediately

You can add a bunch of modifications too if you like flavored chips. Here’s mine and my friends’ favorites.

  • Lime: Dip in 1/4 c lime juice and 2 teaspoons of salt, then let dry on a rack for an hour or two until they’re dried. Don’t salt these after frying.
  • Vinegar: Soak in malt or balsamic vinegar for 30 minutes to 2 hours (the longer you soak, the stronger the flavor)
  • Cracked black pepper: Freshly grind pepper on the chips after they’re pulled from the oil.

The stronger the flavors, the less time they need to spend in the liquid. Also, potatoes will need to soak longer because they have high water content. Anything like spices, herbs, or powdered flavors, sprinkle on after it comes out of the oil. Powdered flavors are how you get things like barbecue, cheddar, sour cream, etc. You can find them online on many spice stores. I don’t have any experience with these, though, so you’re on your own for figuring out how much to use!

Seriously, that’s it. Potato chips and tortilla chips. Yes, it really is that easy.

Dips and Salsa

What are chips without dip? There are thousands of recipes on the internet for dips, but I figured I’d give you the four most common you’d overpay for in jars and cans at the store. And yes, it’s really this simple.

6020522168_36f9f51f6b_zPhoto by NomadicLass, CC BY SA 2.0

Salsa

  • 6 tomatoes (Roma preferred, seeded and diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 jalapeno (seeded and minced)
  • 1 red bell pepper (diced)
  • 1/2 red onion (diced fine)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt, Pepper, and Chili Powder to taste

Mix everything together, cover, and put in the fridge overnight. Yeah, that’s it. If you like your salsa less chunky (like it’s served in so many TexMex places), put it in a blender. Now, this recipe is just a base, and you can get creative. Some additions you can make:

  • More jalapenos, up to 4 total
  • Chipotle peppers (smoked jalapenos in an adobo sauce)
  • Any other chilis you’d like to add
  • Black beans (drained)
  • Liquid smoke
  • Whole corn, yellow or white (drained)
  • Cilantro (fresh)
  • Scallions (chopped fine)
  • Parsley (fresh)

Cheese Dip

Here’s another insanely easy one, especially for gaming. I like doing cheese trays at game nights because, well, who doesn’t like cheese? You’ll end up with leftovers, so about once a month, I take all the leftover cheese and make Fromage Font, a delicious cheese dip. Note: Only real cheese should go into this. No sandwich slices, parmasian from a green can, or “cheese” that comes in a cardboard box on the shelf next to the soup.

  • 1 lb cheese (grate any hard cheese and cut others into small cubes, at room temp)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley

Throw everything in a food processor and let it go until it’s smooth. Push wax paper down on the surface and store in an air tight container in the fridge for at least an hour or up to a week.

Guacamole

Another staple of restaurants that rarely tastes as good as it should. This is insanely easy to make at home so long as you make sure the avocados are ripe. They should be soft but not mushy.

  • 3 avocadoes
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 jalapeno (seeded and minced)
  • 1/2 onion (diced fine)
  • 2 tomatoes (Roma preferred, seeded and diced)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro (chopped)
guacUsing the seeds to make derp eyes is optional
Photo by Phelan Riessan, CC BY SA 2.0

There’s an extra step to this one. Split the avocado in half, remove the seed, and get it out of the skin using a large spoon. Immediately place in a bowl with the lime juice and make sure it’s coated (to prevent browning). Repeat for the other avocadoes, then mash them up with a potato masher or a fork, adding in the salt, cumin, and cayenne. Fold in the other ingredients, add the left over lime juice, and you’re done. Let it sit for about an hour to meld the flavors.

Onion Dip

I’m going to say I’m not a fan of this one personally, but I know many people are so I’m including it. This one involves actual cooking though, so be warned.

  • 1 1/2 c onions (diced)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 c sour cream
  • 3/4 c mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (you can use black if you don’t mind black specks in your dip)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (yes, I said salt twice)

Put a saucepan on medium heat and add the olive oil. As soon as it’s hot, add the onions and the 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook until brown, stirring often, then remove from heat. Once the onions are cooled, mix everything together and refrigerate in an air tight container for at least half an hour and up to three days.

Nachos

So you went to all that trouble to make homemade corn chips, of course you’re going to want to make nachos. Luckily for you, there’s several different ways to make nachos depending on exactly what you want to do. The easiest way is to lay the chips out on a wire rack on a sheet pan, add a slice of jalapeno and a pinch of shredded cheddar cheese, then bake until the cheese melts. This is the original nacho recipe. But that’s not what most of us think of when we think of nachos, now is it?

2434645546_9f72034227_zTHIS is nachos!
Photo by John Verive, CC BY SA 2.0

If you want the ooey, gooey, American adaptation of nachos, you need a smooth melted cheese sauce. This can be a pain in the ass to make sometimes, and there’s no shame in going to that old stand-by in the cardboard box on the shelf next to the soup (so long as you add in some onion and garlic powder to up the flavor a bit). Here’s what I do to make queso.

  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 c milk or half and half
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Melt the butter in a saucepan and when it’s done foaming, whisk in the flour. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add in the milk. Whisk until it starts to thicken, then add the white wine (this provides acid that keeps the cheese from getting stringy, but you can leave it out if you like) Add the cheese in a handful at a time, stirring or whisking constantly. Make sure each batch is completely melted before adding in the next. About halfway through, you can add in the seasonings.

Do not rush this! If you get the mixture too hot, the cheese sauce will become grainy. It will take time, but your patience will be rewarded. And if you’re impatient, just use shredded cheese on your nachos and melt it in the oven.

Now you’re ready to add whatever toppings you like. Don’t look at me like that, you know what goes on nachos. Ground beef, refried beans, black beans, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, guacamole (or just diced avocado), salsa, black olives. Sometimes I like to use ground turkey or chicken instead for a slightly different flavor and texture.

The biggest challenge of nachos isn’t the prep, it’s the presentation. Notice something about all those toppings? They’re all very moist. The longer they set, the more likely your chips will get soggy. You can prevent this by keeping them warm in the oven, but that will only get you so far. Speaking of, the microwave is the natural enemy of nachos! Microwaves cook by steam, which makes the chips soggy fast. Your best bet is to serve quickly after you top the chips and do your best to drain all the topics as much as you can.

Goodbye to the Bag and Jar

I cannot express how easy it is to make these things at home. Most of them take very little time or skill, taste amazing, and they’re considerably cheaper than buying from the store. You know exactly what goes into them and can buy the best quality ingredients. There’s no better way to show your group you care than providing them with real snacks.

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