Homemade chips, including potato, sweet potato, tortilla and pita, that… (Katie Falkenberg / For The…)
It's a rare quiet night, and I'm ecstatic that I've found a "Law & Order" marathon on TV. All I need is something to eat that's good enough and not bad enough (translation: tastes good but not high-calorie).
Potato chips should do the trick. Freshly made, oil-free chips, cooked in the microwave.
That's right. Thinly sliced potatoes (or other produce) can be laid out on a silicon tray and microwaved. The results taste fresher than bagged fat-free chips, and the produce can be seasoned any way you like. (Try sweet potatoes with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.)
This is obviously more work than tearing open a bag. But the equipment goes in the dishwasher. And really, how much convenience do you need? After you've made chips once or twice, they take very little time.
The product is called Topchips and is made by Mastrad (www.topchips.com). The tray also is sold through online sites, including through the Pampered Chef (www.pamperedchef.com) under the name Microwave Chip Maker. Mastrad sells one tray and a mandoline slicer for $20; Pampered Chef, which also does business through house parties, sells two trays for $26.50 and a mandoline for $29.50. Unless you are a slicing wizard, you really need a mandoline.
The holes in the surface of the trays and the scalloped edges allow air to circulate around the food to crisp and cook it.
I made an assortment of chips from vegetables and apples, with salt and other seasonings. I also made whole wheat tortillas and pita bread that I topped with the Middle Eastern herb mix zatar. Only the tortillas and pita required any oil, and a very light brushing at that.
Some foods worked better than others. The tortillas got the most praise from my colleagues. Potatoes and sweet potatoes also worked well. Apples tended to be a bit soft, more like dried fruit than chips. I used fresh, farmers market produce, so the food started out with great flavor.
"The great thing is you really taste the potato, which you don't when you eat conventional chips," said Marie Garnier, Mastrad's international brand manager, who has been making the chips for six months at trade shows.
Apples can be difficult to crisp, she said. And bananas don't work at all. She's also tried herbs and parsnips, among other foods, but Mastrad recommends potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, pears and mangoes (which work better if they are a little underripe).
Jackie Blust, product applications manager at Pampered Chef, tested the product on lots of foods and generally agreed. She said some varieties of apples work better than others, and she said slicing the foods to a millimeter thickness was key to getting foods to crisp without burning.
Both companies include charts for cooking times and offer advice, such as drying potato slices before cooking them. The suggested cooking times differ, sometimes significantly, so experiment with your microwave oven.
I'm generally not fond of products that do just one thing — my coffee maker enthusiastically excepted — but our microwave popcorn maker has pretty thoroughly displaced my husband's decades-old and sort-of-broken pot we used only for popcorn. I could also see getting a lot of use from the chip maker too.
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