March 18, 2013

Impress with homemade tortilla chips

It's not hard, and these homemade tortilla chips are tastier than store-bought ones.

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Lately, I've gotten into the habit of making my own corn tortilla chips, a process that has proved to be deeply satisfying on so many levels.

First, and most importantly, the end result is absolutely superior to the commercial brands in both taste and texture. I bake my chips with just the thinnest coating of oil, so the resulting chip bakes up satisfyingly crisp with a very slight chew.

They're not at all greasy. The corn comes through strong and clear, not at all like the salt-lick flavor of most commercial chips.

I find that my approach to eating these chips is different, too. Instead of mindlessly shoveling them into my mouth, with my homemade chips I'm more apt to eat them slowly and their slight chewiness means I pay more attention while I am eating them. And because I'm preparing them from scratch, they're less of an impulse snack and more of a special treat.

Hint: With these chips, it's all about the quality of the tortillas. When you find good ones, buy extra, storing them in the freezer in packs of six. That way you can remove what you need and leave them to quickly thaw on the counter. Here's a step-by-step guide to making these lighter, healthier chips. You'll need a brush for the oil, baking trays, a cutting board and a large sharp knife. All told, this recipe takes 15-20 minutes to assemble and bake.

Oven-baked tortilla chips

Neutral vegetable oil, like grapeseed or canola

Good-quality corn tortillas

Flaky sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour a few tablespoons of oil into a bowl and brush a thin coating onto your baking trays. Set aside.

2. Place one tortilla on the cutting board and brush the top with a light layer of oil. You don't need a lot of oil, but do pay attention to the outer edges of the tortilla, an area that's easy to miss. Place another tortilla on top of the oiled one and brush the top with oil. Continue in this manner until all the tortillas are oiled and stacked in one pile.

3. Using a large, sharp knife, cut the tortilla stack in half using one firm chop, if possible. Cut one of the halves in half and cut each of those halves in half again, forming wedges. Repeat with other side. This will give you eight stacks of tortilla wedges.

4. Arrange the tortilla wedges in a single layer on the oiled trays. Place the wedges with the un-oiled sides facing down so that they have contact with the oil on the tray. A little overlapping is fine, but don't overlap too much or they won't crisp. Sprinkle a pinch or two of flaked sea salt over the tops, being sure that all of the wedges get a touch of salt.

5. Place trays in the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes. Check the chips at 8 minutes and rotate the pans. Be aware that very thin tortillas are vulnerable to the oven's hot spots and can start to char.

The chips are done when the edges are crisp and dry and slightly lifted from the tray. They should be a few shades darker, though not completely browned. (Chips made from handmade tortillas will often have a few brown spots on them, so don't worry if you see a few.) The chips will still be slightly flexible in the middle, but will crisp further as they cool.

6. Remove trays from the oven and let cool slightly. As they cool, the chips will continue to crisp all the way through. Test one, and if it isn't as crisp as you would like, return the trays to the oven for another 2 or 3 minutes.

Once the chips are fairly cool, remove them from the tray and serve. If you're not eating them right away, store in an airtight plastic bag or container. Homemade chips are especially susceptible to getting stale, so be sure to bag them up as soon as possible.

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