Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On Cravings and Homemade Potato Chips

People who know me really well know that I am an extremely healthy eater. I generally eat fruits and vegetables during the week, and indulge more on the weekends. (However, I actually think this is quite common; people work during the week and can't cook as much, saving more complicated meals and preparations for the weekend.)

Nevertheless, just because I maintain a healthy diet doesn't mean I've totally forgotten all of my cravings (my favorite food is cheesecake, after all). I have childhood memories of eating peanut butter straight from the jar, on nothing but a spoon. Other times I'd be a bit more civilized and opt to make a peanut butter and banana sandwich, a snack that required a specific construction in order to get the taste just right (but peanut butter and bananas are a whole other story...).

My mom, in particular, absolutely loves homemade potato chips and blue cheese dip, so much so that she can make a meal out of them. But plunging potatoes into a vat of oil is not really our thing (is it anyone's?) and blue cheese dip can be pretty heavy. This healthier version of the classic combination was born out of my preferred technique for roasting potatoes in the oven (and a 5-pound bag of red potatoes from Costco). I sliced them very thin, about a quarter of an inch, so that they would cook fast and crisp up, and I seasoned them liberally with salt and pepper. And then into the oven they went. About 20 minutes later, they came out of the oven crisp and golden, reminiscent of slightly thicker potato chips. My mom took this idea and ran with it. These chips have all the flavor of deeply roasted potato chips, but they're baked instead of fried.

As for the other half of the duo, the blue cheese dip, nonfat Greek yogurt and some low-fat buttermilk combine to form a healthier base for the pungent blue cheese. The acidity of both complements the blue cheese, as well. There's really no getting around the cheese in the dip, but if you use a high-quality blue cheese, a little goes a long way.

There's a lot to be said for a snack (or, if you're my mom, a dinner's worth) that satisfies a craving and your conscience. I'm not the biggest blue cheese fan, but even I can appreciate these, and on a Tuesday night no less.

Homemade Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Dip

Okay, I'm going to say right off the bat that this "recipe" is not very precise. As much as I love to bake, when I measure willingly and often, when I cook, I hardly ever measure. But I made sure to pay extra attention to the method that my mom used to make the chips and to the ingredients that went into the blue cheese dip. The truth is, making the potato chips is more of a technique and, depending on your oven, times can vary somewhat. Don't be afraid to taste the chips. You can generally tell when they're done when they smell like potatoes. As for the dip, season it to taste. Try a little to make sure that it has enough kick from the hot sauce and that the blue cheese packs the perfect amount of punch.

Yield: 4 servings

For the potato chips:
About 10 small to medium red potatoes, scrubbed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder or other seasoning (optional; imagine rosemary or thyme, or even a barbecue seasoning blend if you're a fan of that famous flavor)
Vegetable oil spray

For the blue cheese dip:
About 1/3 cup of Greek yogurt, preferably nonfat (you can also use sour cream, but you will need less buttermilk if you do; to make homemade Greek yogurt, drain plain yogurt in a sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towels for a few hours, until thick and creamy)
2-3 tablespoons of low-fat buttermilk
About 1/4 cup of crumbled, high-quality blue cheese (I used gorgonzola)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (Our oven has a convection roast setting, and that's what we use. If your oven does not have this setting, use the same oven temperature, but the chips will likely take longer to cook.) Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil spray. (I also think using a Silpat or silicone mat would work and you wouldn't even need the spray.)

Slice the potatoes as thinly as you can, no more than 1/8 of an inch. Arrange about half on the baking sheet in an even layer and season liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder or other seasoning (if desired). Repeat with the remaing potatoes. There will be a lot of potato slices and they won't all fit in an even layer, but just make sure they are as spread out as evenly as possible with no large clumps of potatoes.

Bake in the oven for about 8 minutes; remove the potatoes from the oven and toss them. As they begin to cook, it will seem as if they are steaming. Because red potatoes are high in moisture content, the water must cook off before they begin to brown. Continue to bake, tossing the potatoes about every five or so minutes. Don't worry if the potatoes stick together, but try your best to break up any huge clumps. In our oven it takes about 25 minutes for them to cook completely. When they are done, they are nicely browned and crisped. Try a few to make sure they are done to your liking. Once they are cooked, turn off the oven and let the potatoes sit in the oven to evaporate off a little more moisture.

Meanwhile, make the blue cheese dip. Combine the Greek yogurt, buttermilk, blue cheese, salt, pepper and hot sauce in a bowl and stir to combine. The consistency should be thick but dippable. Add more buttermilk if you like a thinner dip. Cover and refrigerate for later or serve right away with the (still warm, yum) potato chips.


  1. um yummmm.... so glad we have a few leftovers for tonight!

  2. always looking for healthy alternatives-i think we'll be trying these.