I have never met a single person who doesn’t like fresh tortilla chips and, if such a person exists, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know them. But for some reason, it never occurs to me to make them myself, even though they are one of the easiest, least splattery foods you can fry for yourself at home. It is, however, a two-step process. For the crispiest chips, you need to dry, then fry.
Because I am in the habit of buying too many tortillas at once, I tend to freeze, or at least refrigerate half of what I buy. They technically stay “good” for what seems like forever, but the texture suffers, making them less than ideal for tacos. Heating them up in a frying pan can help, but I prefer turning lacklustre, past-their-prime tortillas into hot, fresh, salty chips.
Like potato chips, a little dehydrating makes all the difference. Our chips are only in the hot oil for a couple of minutes, which doesn’t give any water a lot of time to migrate to the surface. A quick stint in the oven drives out excess moisture, meaning your chips fry up crisp, not chewy. For the best, corn-forward flavour, use a neutral oil. Vegetable is fine, but I prefer fluffy white lard.
To make your own restaurant-style chips from kind-of-sad tortillas, you will need:
As many tortillas as you desire, keeping in mind that one tortilla equals four chips
Enough oil to come up about 1.8cm in a wide frying pan
Fine salt, ideally pulverised with a food processor
Preheat your oven to 95 degrees Celsius and lay your tortillas out on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the tortillas feel dry, but are still pliable. Repeat until you have dried as many tortillas as you wish.
Cut the tortillas into triangles, then heat your oil or lard over medium-high heat in a large (not nonstick) frying pan until it reaches 180 degrees Celsius. Add the chips, about six at a time, and fry for a couple of minutes until they are a light golden brown with just a little more colour on the edges, and feel hard when you pick them up with tongs.
Remove the chips with tongs, letting all excess fat drip away, then transfer to paper towels. Sprinkle with salt, and repeat with the remaining tortilla pieces, until you have a mountain of crisp, delicious chips, ready for bowls of salsa.