Nearly everyone loves crispy tortilla chips with dips, salsa, cheese -- you name it. And while there are hundreds of brands of tortilla chips on the market, they are easy to make at home. They taste better and the cook can then control such factors as sodium and fat.
The easiest way to make tortilla chips is to buy a pack of tortillas, cut them in triangles or strips and cook them until crisp. A cook can either fry the tortillas in oil or bake them. To fry the tortillas, the cook needs to heat enough vegetable oil to cover a heavy frying pan until it is frying temperature -- about 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius). Dip the tortillas in the oil and fry until puffy. This should take only a minute or so. Drain on paper towels.
To bake the chips, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake them about five minutes on each side in a 400 degree Fahrenheit (205 Celsius) oven, or until they are crispy and golden brown.
To make tortilla chips from scratch takes a little more time, but is not difficult. Start with about 3 cups (680 grams) of masa harina. This is a corn flour (note: NOT cornmeal!) available wherever Spanish or Latin style foods are sold. Mix the masa harina with about 2 teaspoons of salt and enough water to make a thick dough. This is not an exact science. The dough may also be mixed with a little vegetable oil to help with the browning process, but don’t overdo it. Divide the dough into balls about the size of a table tennis ball.
The next step is pressing the dough. Tortilla pressers are available for this job, or the cook can just cover the dough balls in wax paper and press them with a heavy pan, such as a cast-iron skillet. The tortillas should be very thin. The cook then heats a heavy skillet until it is very hot and fries the tortillas for about 30 seconds on each side. When the tortillas have cooled, the cook cuts them into wedges or strips and fries them in small batches according to the above directions for frying any tortilla chips. The chips can then be seasoned as desired. Salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and onion powder are all good seasoning options.
Since tortilla chips are so easy to make, they are a great choice for cooks who want more natural foods in their diet. This is also a great cooking project for older children, with the adults doing the deep frying.