My snack food of choice has changed countless times over the past thirty-something years. One reason for this is that I have lived in no fewer than seven states, and the various regional flavors and producers influenced my preference du jour. In New Jersey, I was a Tasty-Cakes fan, but in Texas, it was all about the chips and salsa. Those cunning corporate marketers on Madison Avenue are also to blame. When you are a kid, a snappy jingle, a lovable mascot, a strategically placed ad, and a cool prize at the bottom of the box are just about all you need to be convinced that Product X is the greatest thing since Pac-Man. Maybe, just maybe, my fickle tendencies have also come into play here. I do like variety and trying new flavors, and after all, changing her mind is a woman's right, right?
Most recently, I would say that nutritional value has been the deciding factor when the craving strikes. If I'm really hungry, and just a little something won't satisfy, then I'll tend to stick with something more figure friendly, like carrots, pita chips, and hummus, or apples and peanut butter. If all I want is just a tiny nosh to quiet those screaming taste buds, then I'll typically allow myself a small amount of whatever. Usually, that yen is for something sweet, specifically, of the frozen and creamy persuasion, as I am not really a fan of chips, fries, or other salty/greasy foods.
As with everything, there is one exception. When I lived in North Carolina for graduate school, I discovered what I considered to be a genius invention at my favorite haunt, Foster's Market. A Virginia-base snack foods company called Route 11 made sweet potato chips, something that I had never seen before. Being a huge sweet potato fanatic, I was in heaven, and for those two years, I had found my indulgence. Since Route 11 Chips seem to be offered in every state except Nevada, nowadays I only get this special treat when I am traveling.
Well, the craving struck the other day, so what else was a sweet potato chip-lovin' girl to do, other than make her own? I decided to experiment with some other root vegetables too, for color and flavor variety. No, they're not quite as good as the ones at Foster's (those Route 11 folks know what they are doing, after all), but their salty and slightly sweet goodness definitely hit the spot. Here are some extra tips for this colorful chips:
- Chips can be stored in a zip-top plastic bag, wrapped in paper towels, for 2-3 days.
- Adjust the heat of the oil between the batches. The heat will tend to decrease a bit as you fry the vegetables.
- Mix and match the amounts and varieties of root vegetables as you prefer. Try using yellow beets or different colors of potatoes.
- If you don't have a mandoline, which is used to slice foods uniformly, then just use a very sharp knife and try to slice the vegetables as evenly as you can.
- For additional flavor, sprinkle the chips with other spices, such as garlic powder, chili powder, or cumin, or finely chopped fresh parsley immediately after removing them from the oil.
- Wondra is a better option for frying, because it has been formulated to dissolve quickly in hot liquids (as opposed to clumping.)
4 medium parsnips, peeled
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
4 medium beets, peeled
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
1/3 cup Wondra (or similar variety) flour
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the parsnips into long, thin strips, stopping when you get to the tough core. Using a mandoline or hand slicer, slice the potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets into very thin rounds (less than 1/8-inch thick). Transfer the vegetables to separate bowl, and separate the slices with your fingers.
Heat 2 1/2 inches of oil in a deep pot until it reaches about 360F degrees. Working in small batches, fry the parsnips, stirring to separate, until they are light gold and crisp, 30-45 seconds. With a wire mesh skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the parsnips to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Spread the parsnips in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Repeat the frying process with the potatoes and then the sweet potatoes, cooking each batch about 1 minute.
Toss the beet slices in the Wondra flour, and shake off the excess. Fry the beets until crisp and golden, stirring to separate slices, about 1 minute. Transfer the beets to a paper towel-lined baking sheet, spread in a single layer, and sprinkle with salt. Let the chips dry or cool completely before serving or storing.