My local market sells a 2.5 ounce box of mediocre kale chips, seasoned with weird stuff like cashews and brewer’s yeast, for $7. Why don’t I just try making my own? I thought, remembering how well my pilot-light-warmed oven dried out paper-thin cross-sections of pear and apple until they became like crispy botanical drawings. So I winged it and it worked first time out (see method below). Kale chips won’t substitute for potato chips if that’s what you are hankering for. But they are curiously satisfying in a crispy vegetal way. They’re easy to make and I have friends who DEMAND that I bring them over when I come.
Since the first try, I’ve experimented with flatish Lacinato (Tuscan) kale and the curly kind (I recommend the Lacinato, which dries with more heft, and flavor), and a number of flavorings. Other toughish leafy greens like collards will work too. I’m still checking them out…wondering what Treviso radicchio might yield. So far kale is best. I also tried a Fast Method which produces chips in 25 minutes or so, and actually may be a tad more flavorful if you don’t let them brown.
Using the Slow Method, 2 bunchs of lacinato (Tuscan) kale will cover a large sheet pan using the Slow Method. Using the Fast Method, only 1 bunch of kale can be done at a time.
-into a large bowl pour a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Smash a garlic clove and smush it around in the oil. Let sit while you get the kale ready.
-strip the leaves off the ribs: hold the stem in one hand and clamp your thumb and forefinger around the base with the other. Pull your fingers along the rib from stem to tip, stripping the leaves off as you go. Tear them into biggish bite-size pieces and toss them into bowl.
-when all the kale is ready, take a pastry brush, dunk it in the oil and brush and toss the kale so each leaf is lightly coated. If you need more oil, drizzle some over as you brush and toss.
-sprinkle a little kosher salt over as you toss. OR mix some kosher salt with a flavoring like curry powder or smoky sweet paprika and sprinkle it on the kale. (Come to think of it, you could go Asian-ish in flavorings and use roasted sesame oil steeped with ginger and garlic, maybe 5-spice powder with salt…)
-place two cooling racks on a large sheet pan and arrange the kale over it, in one layer if possible. Discard the garlic.
Slow Method: place in the warm oven (about 150′-200′) overnight or about 6 hours until the kale is dry and crisp.
Fast Method: Roast the kale at 300′ for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan frequently. Since the kale absolutely has to be laid out in one layer, only one bunch of kale will fit on a sheet pan (not two as in the slow method which can tolerate overlap). The pieces on the pan edges get crisp first (after 12 minutes or so) so I remove them from the pan (to keep them from overbrowning), rearrange the others slightly, and kept those cooking, removing crisp one every 4 minutes, until they the whole batch was done. Total cooking time: 20 minutes.
-eh voila, 4 or 5 times the amount of store-bought chips, and much better!
The lessons in all this is: trying out your idea often leads swell results +
a pilot-lit oven can do just about anything an electric dehydrators does +
once you have the basic method(s), endless flavorings can be applied…
and lots of possibilities for trying other greens, thinly sliced fruits…I’m going to try whole sage leaves, which are delicious fried, so might be swell oven roasted.