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In praise of DIY junk food


The tasty fruits of the author's labors, shared with her - NUVO family
  • The tasty fruits of the author's labors, shared with her NUVO family

This may be a weird way to encourage more mindful eating, but trust me on this one. There will be nothing more delicious to you in this world than homemade potato chips and ice cream. Food writer and evangelist Michael Pollan has repeated this mantra for years: don't stop eating comfort food, just make it at home with whole ingredients. 

What I like about it is being able to make flavors in my own kitchen that I can't buy from Breyer's or Lay's, like replica Old Bay potato chips that my boss Ed Wenck brought back from his Baltimore homelands and which I could eat by the literal ton. Sometimes I'll take Japanese rice seasoning and sprinkle it on.  Mandolin slice your spuds and fry them up in a healthy oil then go crazy with your seasoning options: throw a packet of ranch mix on that bitch, or sprinkle it with ancho chile powder, or big, coarse cracks of black pepper. Instead of mindlessly shoveling chips in your mouth, I think the experience of making something that you can't get anywhere else makes it that much more indulgent. 

Ice cream is another easy one to tackle at home, with a simple base of milk, eggs, cream, and sugar. Of course, the texture is vastly improved if you have a maker to slowly fold in the air, but stirring it thoroughly every hour or so with a whisk or fork can achieve a similar effect. (Pro tip: you need more sweetener than you think. Ice cream numbs the taste buds so your base flavors should be pretty punchy). It's also a fun way to experiment with different flavors. I steeped one batch of cream with a bunch of spiced chai teabags, and grated some dark chocolate into another.  And with the exception of perfect, heavenly Graeter's, most ice cream is over-sweetened for my taste, so I like being able to mellow out the sugar. 

The only mildly difficult thing about making custard or ice cream is tempering the eggs, which seasoned egg incorporators will be familiar with (without this step, you get sweet, milky scrambled eggs instead of ice cream). 

More importantly, you're making it out of real food instead of manufactured, preservative-laden pseudo food. It will be sweet from sugar and rich from milk fat and egg yolk, and you might find that a few spoonfuls do that job much better than a whole carton of Skinny Cow or whatever that bullshit is. Stop doing that to yourself. Make your junk food at home because it tastes better and so you are aware of what you're eating, because you put the sugar and the cream in yourself. After all, it's easy to binge on a bag of chips that are created by food scientists to make you want to eat more and for which you did no work to acquire. It's much harder when you've sliced up a potato and patiently dipped them out of that hot oil and seasoned them just the way you like. 

The point of all this is, respect your junk food the way you respect your organically-produced, carefully-crafted dinners. You might find that you eat less of them and enjoy what you do eat a lot more. 

Ice Cream custard base
2 C heavy cream
1/2 C milk
4 egg yolks
2/3 C sugar or to taste 

Bring milk up to about 180 degrees, then temper the egg yolks with about a cup of the hot cream. Freeze according to directions.

To make chocolate ice cream: Grate in a few ounces of good-quality, bittersweet or dark chocolate into the cream and stir until dissolved, 

To make mint chocolate chip: Add a few teaspoons of mint extract and a jigger of 100 proof peppermint schnapps. Mix in rough-chopped dark chocolate when the ice cream is soft serve consistency. 

To make the best fucking flavor of ice cream: Toast some hazelnuts and lightly salt them, then add cinnamon and vanilla extract to your base and stir in hazelnuts at the end. 

Potato chips
Frying oil (Olive oil, while healthy, has a smoke point just above 400, so be cautious with that one)

Set your mandolin on its thinnest setting (or you could slice it with a knife, but don't because that's a goddamn fools errand of consistency). Try to keep your pressure even to make sure they're sliced the same thickness all the way across. Keep your tater slices in a bowl of ice water so they don't turn brown. Finally, fry them up at 400 degrees (yes, you need to bust out the thermometer for this too) for about five minutes, lay them out on some paper towel-lined baking sheets and go crazy with your seasoning options. 


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