Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cutting Loose - Batata Chips with Ají Amarillo Crema Dip

Batata Chips with Ají Amarillo Crema

I keep it in a shoe box with a skull and crossbones hastily but earnestly drawn on its cover, in a cupboard looped with child-proof safeguards despite the fact that there are no children living here. If I was a slightly decadent romantic, I would nickname it "Mack the Knife." As a realist well versed in those occasional but very real dangers of running a kitchen, "The Demon Barber of Eat Street" is a more appropriate moniker. A mandoline is as much a guillotine for fingers as it is an essential tool for the execution of precise and uniform slices of fresh produce, where exactitude is mandated for cooking and/or presentation.

It is only now, two years after my purchase, that I could venture to gingerly take him out of his shrink wrapping. The need for a finely honed edge of steel trumped the wobble of working a hand-held knife against the rugged, gnarly knobs of Latin sweet potatoes. Tools, despite their hazards, are, indeed, implements that ultimately make a cook's life easier, as long as you take the flashing, militarist warnings of Achtung! seriously.

The Razor's Edge

Despite my fear, respect and deference to the sharpest cutting edge I have ever known, I must admit that its power made effortless the finest, almost transparent shavings of potato ever to float and crisp in a pot of roiling-hot oil. You could not, while running the vegetable holder against the blade, imagine that you are actually done nearly before you even started, expecting, instead, the slow creep of bloody cabochons and gaping slits decorating your fingertips, amid the wreckage of a pile of nasty, useless potato scraps.

The Barber is back in his box, now, back in his specially locked cupboard. I expect to take him out more often these days, to let him strut his stuff as he was stropped to do. And I will keep a keen eye on him in order to keep my fingers, to ensure he always performs the kindest cuts of all.
Batata Chips – My own recipe

Ingredients (Per serving)

1 large batata, approximately 8-inches long, peeled and nicked clean of rough edges and most pits (Some of the flesh will be patterned with dark and light colorations; this is normal.)
Large bowl of cold water, aciduated with the juice of a lemon
Flavorless vegetable oil, to fill a depth of 1 ½ inches in a skillet of your choice (I used safflower oil)


Using a mandoline* set with its thinnest cutting attachment (about 1/16 inch), slice the batatas crosswise to create fine chips. Slip the chips immediately into lemon water to prevent browning. Heat oil to a temperature of approximately 350 degrees F. Blot chips with a towel and lower them individually into oil using long-handled metal tongs, allowing some small distance between chips to avoid overcrowding and reducing oil temperature. Watch chips vigilantly (do not leave hot oil unattended - ever), as you turn them repeatedly with tongs, taking care to ensure they are browned and crisped on both sides (about 5 minutes). Remove chips with tongs to plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. Proceed with each batch until all chips are fried. Remove skillet from heat and serve immediately. Allow oil to reduce to room temperature before discarding.

* You can also use a very sharp, hand-held knife, as long as your cutting surface and potato are perfectly motionless, and you have a very good eye for measuring width.

Ají Amarillo Crema – My own recipe
(You can easily substitute low-fat dairy products for any listed here.)


1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons ají amarillo paste (made with Peruvian hot yellow-orange peppers)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, packed
1 2-inch scallion spear, sliced into circles, white and green parts
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted briefly in a heavy, ungreased skillet


In a small bowl, mix all ingredients except scallion and cumin seeds. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with scallion and cumin seeds. Makes approximately 1 cup, enough to serve 4 as a snack or starter.
Batata Chips

Ají Amarillo Crema


This post is for Anna of Anna's Cool Finds, hosting Weekend Herb Blogging #194, for Haalo of Cook Almost Anything at Least Once, managing WHB for its creator, Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.

Been There, Done That ~

Duchess Potatoes
Salsa Verde
Rosemary-Roasted Blue Potatoes

Other People's Eats ~

Blue Violette Potato Chips

Curried Potato Chips
Hot Pepper and Cool Watermelon Salsa
The OTHER Potato


  1. Chips looks so exotic! crispy and crunchy perfect with creamy dip!

  2. OMG, what a great combo! Really scrumptious looking!



  3. Oh my Susan. I think I would be afraid to use that knife! Mind you, for this recipe, I think I could be persuaded. Just gorgeous!

  4. My mandoline does not see the light of day much either but it is always there when I need it.

  5. I love my mandoline and I am terrified of using it: what a relationship! But love is greater than fear. What an interesting crema!

  6. That knife sounds a little (no, a lot) scary, I have one that kind, but I have not used it for years.. not since my kids were born & must be rusting somewhere (if it rusts).

    Beautiful creation with a deadly edge with beautiful pictures.

  7. OH I know Susan. My sister has some fear with knife, too! Love the recipe, and the fact that you store your knife in a shoe box. ;)

  8. Susan, this looks lovely!
    Looks to me like the perfect nibblies for a party or a movie night.
    Although I havent heard of batata, it looks like sweet potato, similar?


  9. hahahaha mandolines are quite the dangerous little gadget! I wonder how it's managed to be around this long without being permanently banned for a landslide of lawsuits and the burden on the healthcare system! I love them, though, the precision and thinness of the slices is unbeatable! Though, the food processor (with the mandoline attachment) does and OK job too.
    These look lovely, I'm totally feeling that dipping sauce! Yumm!

  10. The dip looks great, as do the crisps, but I am afraid, very, very afraid of that mandoline! I think I would have to be supervised while using it. In fact scrub that! I am way too accident prone to attempt to use one. I shall live vicariously through you Susan!

  11. Chips & Dip looks yummy! Great clicks!

  12. Looks great Susan. I serve the aji crema with fried oysters.

  13. Ever since I interviewed a Peruvian chef about 15 years ago, I've kept a jar of aji amarillo in my pantry. And there's a mandoline in the pantry, too. It's really the perfect tool for the batata, which is a bit difficult to cut without one. I've bookmarked and can't wait to try this recipe.

  14. Thanks for the great post! The recap is up now.

  15. Great post! I've never heard of this type of sweet potato but this sounds like an inspired combination!

  16. Thanks, Parita. They taste a little like plantain chips, slightly sweet.

    Rosa - Thanks. I really enjoyed the results.

    Lisa - I know; it really has the potential to be a killer - but, yes - it is *very* good at what it does.

    Val - I suspected I was not alone in this. Good to see you.

    Thanks, Snooky!

    Simona - LOL! I know the feeling. ; ) The crema is absolutely delicious. Thanks.

    Thanks, Soma. Your knife is likely still sharp and sound. Clean, dry blades rarely rust, even over long periods.

    Anh - Thanks. Shoe boxes make for very efficient and economical storage.

    Thank you, Rose! Definitely nibbles, here. Batata is, indeed, a type of sweet potato, white fleshed and very hard when raw.

    Hi, Marta. Thanks. The dipping sauce is totally dangerous, too. ; )

    Jacqueline - Thank you. It took me some time to feel the fear and use this tool any way.

    Hi, Chakhlere. Thanks!

    Lori Lynn - Thanks. Crema with oysters sounds divine.

    Lydia - Aji amarillo is incredibly delicious. I can see why you've been hooked for so long. I am still amazed at how nuanced the flavors of various hot peppers are. Hope you enjoy this.

    Anna - Thanks for hosting!

    Kalyn - Thanks. There's always something new to discover for the kitchen.