Mexico Life
Deep-fried cheese balls—made with potato chips. Deep-fried mac and cheese balls—made with potato chips.

Sometimes you need something fun and potato chips can do it

Squish a bag of chips and you'll be surprised what you can make

Sometimes, especially in these trying times, you just need something fun. That’s definitely how I’ve been feeling these last few weeks. And so today’s column is about — potato chips.

Yes, sabritas.

I realize National Potato Chip Day (in the U.S.) is March 14. And that some of you may already be scratching your heads and clicking on to another story. But wait — this cookie recipe alone may convince you potato chips can indeed be a worthy (albeit disguised) part of some pretty tasty recipes. And it really is fun to squish the whole bag into little bits.

Crumbled, potato chips can add a crunchy saltiness to everything from mac & cheese to sushi, casseroles to sandwiches, ice cream sundaes to dressed-up nachos with truffle oil and Parmesan.

Flavored chips are even more versatile, lending your favorite flavor (BBQ, ranch, sour cream & onion) to chicken wings, rice bowls or dips.

And there’s no need to use “gourmet” chips; that bright yellow bag of Lay’s will do just fine.

No one will guess the secret ingredient in these pecan cookies.
No one will guess the secret ingredient in these pecan cookies.

Potato Chip Pecan Cookies

These taste like salted caramel, and no one will guess the secret ingredient. Got kids or grandkids? They’ll love to help by smashing the chips!

  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup regular sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 4 cups crushed potato chips (about 10 oz.)
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • Optional: 1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 F. Beat butter and sugars together on high speed till fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add flour, baking soda and salt.  Beat on low till mixed well. With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in potato chips, nuts and chocolate chips, if using. (Dough will be sticky.) Place 1-1½ inch blobs about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. (Do not flatten.) Bake 12-15 minutes until golden. Makes about 50 cookies.

Potato Chip Omelet

For the best flavor, use the best ingredients you can. No need to add salt — the chips take care of that.

  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 oz. potato chips (about 3 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Chives pepper or grated Manchego cheese, for garnishing

Whisk eggs vigorously until frothy and lightened in color. Carefully add the chips (whole, not crumbled) to the eggs. Using a spatula, fold gently a few times to ensure chips are coated. Let stand for 1 minute.

Add ½ Tbsp. oil to a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour egg mixture into pan. Use spatula to spread into an even layer, then to loosen the omelet from the sides of the pan. After the bottom of the omelet is just about set, about 3-4 minutes, you’re going to flip it. Cover the pan with an upside-down plate or large, flat lid. Holding one hand flat against the plate and holding the skillet by its handle, gently flip over the omelet to release it onto the plate.

Add remaining oil to pan. Carefully slide omelet into the pan, uncooked-side-down. Cook about 2 minutes. Slide omelet onto a plate, garnish, slice and serve immediately.

Baked Chicken Tenders

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 2 cups finely crushed potato chips (about 5 oz.)
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (6 oz. each), cut into ¼ -inch-thick strips

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a wire rack and set in a foil-lined baking sheet. In a shallow bowl, whisk eggs, salt, garlic powder and cayenne. In a separate shallow bowl, combine chips, breadcrumbs and cheese. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then in potato chip mixture, patting to help coating adhere. Place on wire rack. Bake until golden brown, 12-15 minutes.

Deep-Fried Mac & Cheese Balls

The Kettle brand chips in this recipe make a better crunch than the regular thinner chips. It’s not necessary to have a deep-fry thermometer — just keep a close watch so they don’t burn.

  • Baked macaroni & cheese, chilled and refrigerated overnight in a 9×13 pan
  • Two (8.5 oz.) bags Kettle Brand Potato Chips, any flavor
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 6 cups vegetable oil for frying

Make mac & cheese and refrigerate overnight. The next day, use a small melon baller or spoon out about 2 Tbsp. mac & cheese to shape 2-inch rounded balls, compressing lightly.

Place about 2 cups of potato chips into 1-gallon freezer bags and seal. Using a rolling pin, crush into small flakes. Do this until all chips are crushed; set aside in a shallow bowl or plate.

In another shallow bowl, whisk eggs until smooth. Dip mac & cheese balls into the whisked egg, then roll in the chips, firmly pressing chips into the balls to create a solid crust. Heat oil in a deep pot to 350 F on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry six balls at a time for about 3½ minutes or until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Steak & Gorgonzola Potato Chip Nachos

This is even easier if you just buy some already-cooked carne asada from a nearby taco stand.

  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. flank or skirt steak
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 bag thick-cut potato chips
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup cream
  • 3/4 cup Swiss or Gruyere cheese (or combination)
  • 3/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
  • ¼ cup chopped chives
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
You can also make this dish with carne asada from a nearby taco stand.
You can also make this dish with carne asada from a nearby taco stand.

Cook steak as desired. Cut into small pieces and wrap in foil to keep warm. To make cheese sauce, pour wine into a small skillet on low heat. Add butter and cream; stir until combined. Slowly add all the cheeses, stirring constantly. Once cheeses have all melted, add chives and remove from the heat.

Sprinkle steak over potato chips, pour cheese sauce over all, sprinkle with green onions and serve immediately.

Janet Blaser has been a writer, editor and storyteller her entire life and feels fortunate to be able to write about great food, amazing places, fascinating people and unique events. Her first book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, is available on Amazon. Contact Janet or read her blog at whyweleftamerica.com.

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