Tortilla Chips

from The Fearless Frying Cookbook

Most Americans have eaten their weight several times over in chips. Many restaurants that specialize in pub food serve homemade potato chips, but few serve homemade tortilla chips, which are infinitely superior to store-bought. They are also incredibly simple to make.

When I'm invited to come to a potluck dinner in the summer, I'll often ask if I can bring chips and salsa. I make a big bowl of salsa from vine-ripened tomatoes, then fry a big batch of these chips. I place them in a large roasting pan and keep them in a warm oven until it's time to go to the party. Just before leaving, I cover the pot with foil, then enter with a big pot of warm chips and fresh salsa to start the festivities.

You don't have to bother to make or find fresh tortillas -- the packaged ones in your grocer's refrigerated section are actually better for frying because they are thinner and drier. Look for ones that are labeled "stone ground" -- they'll be the tastiest. Look for 6-inch corn tortillas in 6- to 8-ounce packages. Each package will yield chips for about 3 people.

Though I drain most fried foods on wire racks, I place chips on paper towels because their crescent shape tends to hold oil. If you sprinkle these while still warm with grated cheese and chopped chilies, you'll have instant nachos.

6-inch corn tortillas
Peanut oil for frying
Paper towels

1. Cut the tortillas into 6 to 8 wedges each and spread them out on a towel to dry out.
2. If the chips aren't going to be eaten immediately, preheat the oven to 200° and place a baking sheet in it. Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches in a stockpot and heat over medium high heat until 375° . Line another baking sheet with paper towels.
3. Place the chips one at a time onto the surface of the oil, adding just enough to the pot so that they can fry without being crowded. Cook for about 30 seconds, then turn them over to fry on the other side for another 30 seconds or until they just begin to blush with color. If you let them color completely they will be overcooked. Remove immediately with a wire mesh strainer or tongs, draining as much oil from the chips back into the pot as is possible. Place the hot chips on the baking sheet lined with paper towels.
4. Be sure to allow the oil to return to 375° before adding another batch of chips. Remove the first batch from the paper towels and place them in the warm oven while you continue frying. Use clean paper towels for each batch.
5. Salt the chips right before serving. Serve warm with salsa or with Pluff Mud.