When I was in college, I used to take the South Shore train home to Chicago from South Bend some weekends. My dad would pick me up in Hegwisch, which is the southern-most neighborhood in Chicago, and we would drive up the Bishop Ford Expressway to the Dan Ryan Expressway.
Where the two expressways meet is where the Jay’s Potato Chip factory used to be located. It’s now closed, but back in the early 1980s, whenever my dad and I would swing around that big access ramp I would catch a whiff of the sliced potatoes that were frying in huge vats of grease inside the factory and I knew that I was home.
I don’t eat a lot of potato chips these days, but I still cherish that smell.
Potato chips always seemed to be around when I was growing up. Usually, my family opted for Jay’s, probably because since they were locally made they cost less than Ruffles or other national brands.
Jay’s came in a variety of flavors, including sour cream and onion and Hot Stuff, which were coated in fiery seasonings and are still the favorite of my older brother, Michael. He always makes a point of getting a bag whenever he returns to Chicago for a visit because he can’t get them in Oregon, where he lives now.
But my favorite were the Barbecue because of the nice balance of sweet and spicy they had.
With five kids in our house, a bag of Jay’s Barbecue Potato Chips wouldn’t last very long once it arrived from the Jewel’s. It was one of those items you staked out as my mom unpacked the groceries so that you could nab the bag before anyone else noticed it.
While I don’t have a deep fryer in my house (I wish), I came up with this oven-baked version of homemade barbecue potato chips. While the crispiness of the chips isn’t as consistent as the commercial variety — some were a little soft in the middle, but still delicious — the barbecue coating tasted exactly the way I remember.
I served these with Reuben sandwiches. Now, there’s nothing complicated about a Reuben — rye bread, corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing all fried in butter or oil — but I’ve noticed that some restaurants can’t seem to get it right. Usually, it’s the Thousand Island they forget, or else they serve it on the side.
Thousand Island dressing is something you should never buy commercially. Not only because commercial tend to be loaded with preservatives and additives — ever wonder why they almost never go bad? — but also because it’s easy to make and you probably already have everything you need in your kitchen right now.
So here’s my Homemade Barbecue Potato Chips recipe you can make in your oven, along with an easy-peazey Thousand Island dressing recipe.
Homemade Barbecue Potato Chips
2 or 3 Russet Potatoes, skin-on (or about 1 potato for each person)
2 TBS Canola Oil
2 TBS Barbecue Seasoning (or more, be generous)
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Slice potatoes very thin, using either a mandolin or simply a chef’s knife. Don’t worry if they aren’t all precisely the same width; they will be more rustic if there are sligh variations. Immediately submerge sliced potatoes in to a mixing bowl filled with cold water. Leave the potatoes in the water for at least 10 minutes to draw out some of the starches. This will help them become more crisp while cooking.
2. Remove potatoes from water, drain and then lay flat on a kitchen towel. Place another kitchen towel on top of the potatoes and pat off all the moisture. You want the chips to be dry, which will also improve crispness. Transfer to a bowl, add oil and toss so that every chip is completely covered.
3. Lay chips out on a couple of sheet pans sprayed with spray, trying to avoid overlap. Sprinkle generously with the barbecue seasoning. It already contains plenty of salt, so you don’t need to add any additional salt.
4. Bake until chips are crisp, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
Thousand Island Dresssing
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
2 TBS Ketchup
1 TBS White Vinegar
2 tsp Sugar
2 tsp Sweet Pickle Relish, or chopped pickles
1 tsp White Onion, fine dice
1/8 tsp Sea Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
1. Combine ingredeints in a bowl. Stir to combine and refrigerate for at least on hour to let the flavors meld, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve.