Crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle and served on a plate. That’s all I ask for in a chip.
My dad may have lacked the culinary skills of my mother but he could make the best plate of homemade chips in the world. I often hanker after a plate of his chips. Any chips. Call it comforting, call it indulgent, call it whatever you want. Finding a plate of real chips has become something of an enigma.
Skinny chips, fat chips, triple cooked or hand cut. Wedged, oven baked, rosemary rubbed or smothered in garlic, the list goes on. Restaurants continue to look for ways to strip our wallets in clever ways.
Chips arranged in jengaesque towers are not my idea of spudly satisfaction. Built from half a dozen spud bricks and luke warm by the time the apprentice has created the architectural masterpiece. For goodness sake, if I’m ordering chips, I’m not exactly freaked out by carbs and fat. Give me MORE, I’m hungry.
Great food should be a pleasure for all the senses. Appearance, smell, flavour, texture and sometimes the sound combine to trigger memories or create wondrous new experiences. Chefs are creative, that is their skill, but some have blurred the line between chef and artist.
I’m talking about the flatware, what many of us simply call a plate. Let me go back to what I was talking about; a plate of chips, with particular focus on the plate.
In the last few months, I’ve eaten way too many chips, but to ease my guilt, I’ll call it research. They’ve come in terracotta flower pots, recycled bean tins, enamelled cups, tiny le Creuset casserole dishes, mini deep fat fryers, and garden pails borrowed from the Borrowers. This trend to use anything other than a plate is rather inventive, and the chips in curious vessels tend to be arranged on wooden chopping boards, bits of roof slate and planks of pine.
Quirky containers have been around a long time. My parents reminisce about newspaper and I remember the 70’s craze for chips in basket. The thing is, a plate is necessary so that the vinegar can form a salty puddle and chips can be rubbed around and eaten at leisure.
The humble potato is key to the perfect chip. Dan calls me the spud queen as I can spend a significant amount of time selecting the correct variety. He reckons it’s an Irish thing to be so obsessive about a potato. ‘Balls of flour’ say the roadside signs in Ireland. Whether it’s the Rooster (aka the uber tuber) or Kerr’s Pinks I choose fluffy over waxy every time.
My odyssey around England to find a plate of perfectly cooked chips continues.