Some confusion exists about the name of these potatoes. What we call ‘chips’, in America are known as ‘French fries’; what the Americans refer to as ‘chips’, we call ‘crisps’. Staggering choices face crisp lovers today; they come flavoured with Cajun, Italian or barbecue spices, vinegar, jalapeño peppers (almost incendiary), yoghurt and green onion, bagel pastrami, punjab puri and salsa. You can get them chocolate coated. Even hedgehog-flavoured crisps have their admirers.
The best chips in Europe are found in private houses where they can be prepared with love and attention. For really top-class ‘fish and chips’, peel potatoes and slice into chip sizes. Leave for at least half an hour in cold water to remove excess starch. We have an old metal ‘chipper’ that produces even-sized chips in seconds. The Belgians favour smaller chips like matchsticks. Families who love chips would do well to invest in an electric deep-fryer. Occasional chip fanciers can get away with a good, high-sided frying pan.
For really crisp chips, cook them twice. Using a chip basket, half cook in fat at a temperature of 360°F/185°C. Drain, then deep-fry again at 390°F/195°C to brown.
Drain on kitchen paper and eat immediately.
George Crum, the chef at Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs, New York, is said to have devised ‘Saratoga Chips’ in 1853 to placate a cantankerous customer who complained that the fried potatoes were too thick. The first crisp to arrive in Britain was in 1920, made by a Frank Smithin his garage in Cricklewood, North London. He added the blue twist wrapper of salt.
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