Sunday, October 29, 2006

Busy weekend, also recipe for Sweet Potato Chips

Yeah, no actual gaming this weekend. I did throw a bunch of paper on my dining room floor, though. It was bad paper and it deserved to go away. I figured out health plan details from switching jobs, which was terrible. It is mind-boggling how much money it costs. I pay 20% of my gross pay just so my family can have health insurance. This ignores the further costs of actually using that coverage. My new employers also switched insurance providers and I won't get another enrollment period until next August, but I don't know how that applies to the child-care paycheck deduction, since I've already spent far, far more than the total $5,000 annual maximum Dependent Care Account.* Oops, I threw up, mostly into my empty wallet.

I special-ordered some games at Tri-Games; specifically, the new Power Grid map, the new Blue Moon deck, and something for Chris B.

I did give Alex the remaining pieces of an Amazing Labyrinth I bought at a thrift store early this year. It was missing 3 tiles and one pawn, aargh, so close to being complete. Plus, the kids would tear it up anyway, so light thrift store wear is no big deal.

Anyway, Alex had a great time with all the tiles and cards, and was definitely entertained for quite some time. The labyrinth tiles have white paths outlined by brown stones, and Alex didn't understand that... she was perfectly happy to line up the outsides, without lining up the path edges. Interesting. We took turns adding tiles and moving a small toy puppy along the paths, and having him find the stuff in the maze.

The illustrations are weird. "Okay, here's a ghost, honey. Here's a pig-girl. Here's another ghost, wait, it's got a bottle, so it's a genie. Here's the ugliest dragon ever printed, right next to horrible princess. Man, those Germans are nuts."

I also fried more sweet potato on both nights. I am at the desired point where all the family will eat what I fry. The first couple of batches turned out iffy. Strangely enough, the secret is to not worry about it - I started by frying little tiny batches, which made the oil heat unevenly and burned the too-thick chunks. I have also ruined two plastic spatulas**, which CAN be dipped in hot oil, just not really hot oil for more than 2 seconds as you try and fish little floaty bits of sweet potato out before the smoke alarm goes off***.

Todd's Sweet Potato Chips, with extended commentary

Get your mise en place before you start. Once you're cookin' with hot oil, don't turn your back on it for a second.
  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato for 2-3 people, or one hungry person.
  • Canola oil, possibly with a splash of olive or sesame oil. This is what was in my pantry, so it's what I used. I'm going to experiment with peanut oil next.
  • Salt, powdered sugar, brown sugar, or ranch dressing. I didn't have much luck with the brown sugar or powdered sugar because I'm too lazy to sift confections over one batch when the next batch needs to go in.
  • Metal pan or pot with fairly high sides to prevent spatter, and a lid in case your pot starts sizzling too much and you need to remove it from the heat in a hurry.
  • Metal slotted spoon - plastic won't cut it, duh.
  • Big, sharp knife and cutting board - using a little knife just makes it take longer, and you're going to make a lot of thin slices.
  • Plate with paper towels
  1. Cut thin slices with boldness, as thin as you can get them near the middle of the potato, slightly thicker near the ends.
  2. Put enough oil in your metal pan or pot to cover the bottom to a depth of about an inch and a half. Turn this up to high heat, but don't let the oil smoke - that means it's too hot.
  3. Toss a lot of slices at once into the oil, which brings the temperature down a little, and helps them all to cook more evenly. I usually do about 1/3 a potato per batch, unless I get bored and throw more in at once. The water in the sweet potato is going to make it pop and sizzle a little. Any water you drop in will pop like crazy, so if you rinse your slotted spoon mid-cooking to cool it off, dry it first.
  4. Stir frequently so you don't space out. Scoop the slices out when they're done to your liking.
  5. Put on paper towels to dry, but don't dry the top until you salt like crazy.
  6. Study what you've created, and sneak a few as you cook the next batches.
  7. You cooked 'em, now eat 'em, possibly with Hollandia, or another fine beer from Holland.
Technically, if you get most of the crunchy bits out of the oil, you can put it in the fridge with the lid on and use it the next day, just like a real fast-food joint. I've detected no difference in the results, even on day 4, batch 3. This is due to improving my cutting technique to produce fairly regular slices, thus reducing debris. Of course, that means you have a big pot of grease in your fridge.

* Yes, technically, I spend almost half my income on health insurance and child-care. If you want to be rich, might I suggest being born rich and then not having kids?
** Like a dumbass.****
*** I think one of our downstairs smoke alarms is off, basically permanently. Opening the oven sets it off, opening the toaster with a medium bagel sets it off. Pretty much anything I do sets it off.
****Sober, too. Hot oil's just too dangerous to play with under the influence. Watching that plastic shrivel makes me a little nervous, but not too sick to eat fried sweet potato chips.


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