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by Wolfgang Puck
When it comes time to plan a cookout, most people have no problem deciding what they want to serve as their main course, whether burgers or hot dogs, steaks or chops, chicken breasts or seafood. Side dishes aren't really a problem, either, since so many of us today know and enjoy grilled vegetables, as well as having favorite recipes for potato salad and coleslaw.
But what should you offer your guests as an hors d'oeuvre or appetizer before the Fourth of July feast? Too often, we fall back on those old supermarket standbys, tearing open bags of chips and pretzels and presenting them with familiar dips made with sour cream or mayonnaise.
Instead, how about starting off your party with a bang this year by making your own tempting, freshly fried chips? And not only that, but also serving them with homemade warm cheese sauce?
In the Red & White Chips with American Blue Cheese Sauce recipe I share here, I've taken that idea another big step in honor of July 4th, serving up red beet chips, white potato chips, and a blue cheese sauce.
Don't be afraid of making your own chips. Several widely available, relatively inexpensive devices make it easy.
For cutting the vegetables into thin, uniform slices, I recommend using the device known as a mandoline, so called because the rhythmic action of sliding a vegetable up and down its surface and across its inset blade resembles strumming a stringed instrument. Just be sure to get a model that includes a piece that holds the vegetable securely and keeps your fingertips safely clear of the blade; and also handle the device with the caution you'd show with any sharp tool.
Frying today is easier than ever thanks to automatic, thermostat-controlled countertop models that keep the temperature steady, help guard against spattering, and even filter out the frying smells that can linger in the kitchen. That said, a good, heavy pot and a deep-frying thermometer will do a fine job, too, as long as you maintain the oil's temperature by keeping an eye on the dial and not overloading the pot with large batches that can drop the temperature too quickly. Too-cool oil gets absorbed by the vegetable, resulting in soggy, greasy chips.
Blue-veined cheeses are widely available in supermarkets today. For a truly patriotic sauce, however, look for a high-quality blue that was made in America. One of my favorites is Maytag blue, from an Iowa company founded in 1941 by a member of the same family that puts its name on kitchen and laundry appliances. Many other domestic varieties exist, too, produced by artisan cheese makers nationwide.
So give this recipe a try on Independence Day -- and watch the fireworks of happiness in your guests' eyes!
Red & White Chips with American Blue Cheese Sauce
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yield: Serves 12
Red & White Chips with American Blue Cheese Sauce Ingredients
3/4 pound organic Idaho potatoes
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
3/4 pound whole raw beets
4 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk
1 pound Maytag blue cheese or other American-made blue cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Freshly ground black pepper
Red & White Chips with American Blue Cheese Sauce Recipe Instructions
First, prepare the potatoes.
Fill a large mixing bowl with cold water. Peel the potatoes and, working with a mandoline or a sharp knife, cut them crosswise into uniform wafer-thin slices no more than 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the slices to the bowl and leave to soak for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sauce.
In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low heat and, with a wire whisk, stir in the flour until smooth. Cook, stirring, until thick and bubbling but not yet browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisking continuously, slowly pour in the milk. Raise the heat slightly and, stirring continuously, bring to a simmer; adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and continue stirring until the liquid is thick and creamy. Pour the milk through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean saucepan. Over low heat, stir in 12 ounces of the blue cheese until melted. Remove from the heat, cover, and keep warm.
Fill an automatic deep fryer with vegetable oil, following the manufacturer's instructions, or fill a heavy pot with at least 4 inches of the oil. Heat to 350 degrees F. on the deep fryer's thermostat or on a deep-frying thermometer.
While the oil is heating, drain the sliced potatoes and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Peel the beets and slice them as you did the potatoes, blotting them with paper towels and putting them into a separate bowl.
When the oil is hot, fry the potatoes in several batches until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, watching carefully to avoid burning them. Using the deep-fryer basket or a long-handled wire skimmer, transfer to paper towels to drain, sprinkling with salt. Fry the remaining batches of potatoes. When all the potatoes have been fried, fry the beets in small batches until they've darkened slightly and their edges have curled, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer each batch to paper towels to drain, sprinkling with salt; the beet chips will become crispier as they cool.
While the last batch is frying, gently rewarm the sauce and stir in the chives, reserving 1 teaspoon for garnish. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Arrange the chips on one or more platters or in shallow bowls. Drizzle the sauce over the chips, if you like, garnishing with the remaining cheese and chives. Or transfer the sauce to a bowl or sauceboat and serve it separately for dipping, garnishing the chips with crumbled cheese and chives.
Patriotic Chips - Red & White Chips with American Blue Cheese Sauce Recipe
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