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Potato chips are more than a snack

Creative cooks and chefs are showing the rest of us how this sidekick to hamburgers, sandwiches and dips, brings crunch, flavor and a savory touch to all sorts of foods. And it's not just as a topping for tuna casserole.

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Potato chips, that long-time favorite snack, is suddenly taking on a new life, moving from the side of the plate to the middle.

It had to happen — that they would start showing up as a surprise ingredient in old favorites, taking on a new persona as it were. Who knew?

Creative cooks and chefs are showing the rest of us how this sidekick to hamburgers, sandwiches and dips, brings crunch, flavor and a savory touch to all sorts of foods. And it's not just as a topping for tuna casserole.

Chips are showing up in recipes for brownies, cookies, shortbread, sandwiches and as crust for chicken tenders and fish. Crabcakes, meatloaf, omelets, salads and soups also have their share of chips nestled in with other ingredients, sometimes crushed, other times left whole.

Have you ever had a chocolate-dipped potato chip? Fabulous!

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I'm not exaggerating when I say they bring a subtle bite to dishes that may be just one note in texture.

Chips of all kinds have the reputation as being not the healthiest of snacks. Because they're produced from potatoes, chips on their own can provide several vitamins and minerals including Vitamins E, C and B6. There also some types of chips that can provide potassium.

The ingredients of many brands are pretty simple. Lays, the No. 1 seller, contains only potatoes, sunflower or corn oil and salt. The website claims that there are no additives and no preservatives, making this snack not as unhealthy as others.

In the past 20 years chip varieties have included no-salt, low-salt and salt-free, as well as chips made from vegetables.

Chips are part of our world of snacks and like everything else, moderation is key. Take a handful or two, not the whole bag.

As an ingredient you won't be using many anyway.

For something so popular potato chips had a rough beginning. In 1853 a young chef at a fancy resort in Saratoga Springs, New York, was dealing with a customer who was complaining about soggy fried potatoes. The customer was none other than Cornelius Vanderbilt, the millionaire railroad tycoon, which added to the chef's pressure.

The chef sliced the potatoes as thin as he could, then deep-fried them. Vanderbilt raved and ordered more.

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These were such a hit they became known as Saratoga Chips and were such a delicacy that for decades they were served only at the finest restaurants.

By the turn of the 20th century others were trying to produce this simple chip. At that time they were sold in tins or out of glass cases in markets and keeping them fresh was a problem. That is until a California businesswoman named Laura Scudder came up with the idea of putting the chips in wax paper, and sealing the ends closed with an iron.

That was the beginning of what we now have. Her project led to mass production and distribution.

As the Great Depression came, an entrepreneur named Herman Lay (yes, him) was selling potato chips out of his truck to grocers in the South. The rest of the story is one of tremendous success.

More innovations were to come.

In the early 1950's an Irishman named "Spud" Murphy developed a technology to add seasonings and spices. His two original flavors for potato chips were salt and vinegar, and cheese and onion. Today there are hundreds of different flavors.

So which are the most popular? The plain chip, followed by barbecue, and sour cream and onion.

Have your doubts about potato chips as an ingredient? Here are three recipes to try. I think you'll be surprised and delighted. The chicken fries are sure to please kids.

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POTATO CHIP COOKIES
2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
4 cups coarsely crushed salted potato chips, divided
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375.

Beat together butter and sugars on high speed until fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla and eggs and beat well. Add flour, baking soda and salt and beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in 2 cups of chips. Roll dough into 2-inch balls, then roll balls in rest of chips and nuts to coat. Place cookies 2-inches apart on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until golden, 28 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheet.

Store in airtight container up to fivedays.

POTATO CHIP AND CHIVE OMELETTE
4 large eggs
1 cup salted potato chips, somewhat crushed
Finely chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon unsalted butter or olive oil

In a bowl beat eggs lightly with a fork. In another bowl, mix chips, chives and garlic. Stir half into the eggs. In a medium skillet melt butter over medium heat. When foamy, add eggs. Cook for 2 minutes, then sprinkle rest of chips over the surface. Cook 1 more minute or until omelette is cooked the way you like it. Fold omelette in two and slide onto a serving plate. Serve and eat right away before chips lose their crunch.

CHICKEN FRIES
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
2 cups finely crushed ridged potato chips
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1/4-inch strips

Preheat oven to 400. In a shallow bowl, whisk eggs, salt, garlic powder and cayenne. In another bowl combine chips, Panko and cheese. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then in potato chip mixture. Pat to help coating adhere. Transfer to a greased wire rack in a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 12-15 minutes.

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Related Topics: FOODRECIPESHOLLY EBEL
Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to life@postbulletin.com.
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