The problem with tortilla chips is that they come in a giant bag. A giant bag of greasy, salty goodness. And I’m just one person, but I will eat the entire bag if given half a chance. I’ve often wished that tortilla chips came in little snack-sized bags, but if they do, I’ve yet to find them.
Admittedly, there are worse problems in life. But the good news is that this is a problem with a quick, cheap, and easy solution that involves oil and salt. The best kind of problem and solution, really.
I have mentioned before that I worked doing prep in a Mexican restaurant for a few years while I was in college.
I spent mornings back then at my prep table, drinking Mountain Dew while rock music rattled the stereo speakers and cool morning air wafted in the open back door. I cut up a lot of things, including corn tortillas for chips. I would take a thick stack of tortillas, cut through it quickly four times like a pizza, shove the triangular pieces off my table into a giant tub, then grab another stack and repeat this process until the tub was full. This wasn’t precision work, so my mind wandered or I shouted insults back and forth with the guys at the grill while my hands hustled. Throughout the day, the fry cook took handfuls of those tortilla triangles and plunged them into the fryer, poked them around a bit with a long set of tongs, then at the perfect moment, turned them out of their basket, all hot and crispy, into another tub.
Even if you don’t own a deep-fryer, this is an incredibly easy process to replicate at home. It only takes about ten minutes, and the chips are so much better than anything you can buy in a bag.
Here’s how: A wok is ideal for this, but you could also use a largish heavy-bottomed saucepan in a pinch. Either way, just keep a close eye on your oil during the process and don’t walk away.
Pour about two inches of vegetable oil into the wok, and turn heat to high (or more like medium high on a gas range). Place a stack of six or so corn tortillas on your cutting board, and cut them in half, then in fourths, then eighths. You should now have a pile of tortilla triangles. Continue to cut as many tortillas as you want.
Check your oil by tossing a drop of water in. When it sizzles hard, try a tortilla triangle. It should fry madly, but if the oil is starting to smoke, it’s too hot—turn it down a little. Gently toss in a handful of tortilla triangles. The sizzling and boiling should really escalate. Agitate them around a bit with a slotted spoon or a spider, if you have one.
Chips only take a few minutes to cook. Fish one out when they look crispy but not yet brown and try it. If it’s crunchy they’re done. If it’s leathery, give them another 30 seconds. If they start turning brown, you’ve gone a little too far but they are probably still pretty edible.
Scoop cooked chips from the oil–this is where the spider is especially handy. Put chips in a bowl, salt lightly, and toss another handful of triangles into the oil. Continue this process until you have enough chips—or a little more than enough. Because you’ll be amazed at how delicious they taste. You may not decide to make your own tortilla chips every time, but they are well worth the effort every now and then.