If you have potatoes, chocolate chips and sea salt, you can make it. It's Thick-Cut Potato Crisps with Dark Chocolate (above). They're in Raghavan Iyer's latest cookbook, "Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked--and Fried, too!" (Workman, $16.95).
Ask Iyer (above) why he chose potatoes as a topic and he answers, "Why not? There's a reason this is the fourth largest crop in the world." But it's more personal than that. The potato, he says, has "been a passion for 55 years." (That will be 56 years in April, when he has a birthday.)
A vegetarian, Iyer eats potatoes once or twice a day, sometimes more, which was handy when working out the 75 recipes in the book. They come from all over the world. Only a couple are from India, where he was born. Others represent Spain, Ireland, Peru, Persia, Africa, Indonesia--almost any country you can think of.
For the demo, he fried Crispy Potato Skins (above). These were spicy-hot, thanks to cayenne, and really delicious. "In early college days, you would get drunk and eat potato skins," Iyer reminded his audience. The drinkers were eating healthfully without knowing it because, Iyer explained, the nutritional benefits of potatoes are just under the skin.
The college kids who drank beer have probably moved on to mojitos. For them, and for the rest of us who love this cocktail, Iyer offers a Mojito Potato Pomegranate Salad (above). Yes, there's rum in it as well as key limes and fresh mint. Aren't the colors gorgeous?
Born in Mumbai, Iyer lives in Minneapolis. He''s a James Beard Award winner, an Emmy winner, an IACP Teacher of the Year, a consultant to major food concerns and has written for a raft of cooking magazines. This is his sixth book. Four of the others are about Indian food.
As a teacher, Iyer packs his recipes with tips on technique. Tater Tips with his comments are scattered throughout the potato book. A special index groups recipes according to whether they are gluten-free, vegan, lacto-vegetarian or lacto-ovo vegetarian. There's a conventional index too.
Oddly, the chocolate-coated potato crisps is one of the longer recipes in the book. That's because Iyer goes into such detail about how to make and fry chips at home--valuable information, to be sure. Here, he's talking about this and other techniques.
The Crispy Potato Skins from his demo is shorter but still detailed, because Iyer wants his readers to get things right. The skins are delicious with their sauce of crème fraiche, chives and black pepper.
CRISPY POTATO SKINS WITH CRÈME FRAICHE
From "Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked" by Raghavan Iyer
3 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Zest of 1 medium lime
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns
Fill a medium-size bowl halfway with cold water. Scrub the potatoes well under running water. Peel the potatoes with a paring knife, cutting about 1/4 inch deep into the flesh. Try to get long strips of skin, as they are easier to fry and look prettier. Submerge them in the bowl of water to prevent them from discoloring. Save the peeled potatoes for another recipe.
As the potato skins soak, pour oil to a depth of 2 to 3 inches into a wok, Dutch oven or medium-size saucepan. Heat the oil over medium heat until a candy or deep-frying thermometer inserted into the oil (without touching the pan bottom) registers 350 degrees.
Set a wire rack over a cookie sheet, for draining the fried skins of excess oil.
Drain the potato skins in a colander and rinse them a bit under cold running water. Give the colander a good shake or two to rid the skins of excess water. Transfer the skins back to the same bowl and sprinkle with the chickpea flour and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Toss the skins to coat them with the flour. There should be enough moisture in the skins to get the flour to cling to them. If they feel dry, wet your hand and use it to toss the skins.
Remove about a quarter of the skins and gently disperse them in the hot oil. Use a slotted spoon to separate them as they sizzle and turn reddish brown, 4 to 6 minutes. You will need to adjust the heat under the pan to make sure the oil stays at 350 degrees. Scoop the cooked skins out of the oil with the spoon and transfer them to the rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining skins.
As the potatoes fry, combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, the cayenne, and the lime zest in a medium-size bowl. Whisk the crème fraiche, chives and peppercorns in a small bowl.
Once all the potato skins are fried and drained, add them to the seasonings and toss to coat them. Serve the zesty skins with the creamy sauce right away.
Makes 4 servings.