Potato chips. Potaaaaaaaaato chips. Potato. Chips. I bet you’re craving them right now.
As far as I’m concerned, the salted deep-fried potato slice is the best evidence we have that evil forces exist in this world. Only a truly diabolical being could have invented something so ludicrously addictive. And they’ve hooked me. I’m a goner. When I’m plunked on the couch, with something inane on the teevee, all I want is a salty crunch traveling in a constant stream from lap to mouth.
But then come the consequences. The raving, gnawing salt-and-starch craving, roaring for more and more and more. Then the crash, the descending gray fog, the heavy eyelids, the sudden and overwhelming need to sink my bloated carcass into the couch cushions and sleep for an eternity. And, eventually, the circumference of my lower half, pushing wider and wider against the waistband of my jeans.
Clearly, something better is in order–something salty, crunchy, compulsion-forming, that won’t send my poor overworked pancreas into screaming fits. And, once again, it’s Mark Bittman to the rescue.
Most people I know have never encountered nori, the flat sheets of Japanese seaweed, anywhere other than a sushi bar. I actually made my share of sushi growing up–or, at least, we rolled vinegared rice and vegetables in nori and called it sushi–and, thanks to us sticky-fingered kids and our tendency to overstuff, we would sometimes end up with leftover nori. This posed a conundrum for our decidedly non-Japanese family, one that we never quite solved: what do you do with plain sheets of seaweed?
Last week, when Boyfriend (oh, let’s give him a name: Sam) and I found ourselves with an unfinished pack of nori after a minor culinary experiment, I made up my mind to solve the conundrum. Following the guidelines in How to Eat Everything, I brushed the nori oh-so-lightly with sesame oil, sprinkled them with salt, and toasted them quickly in a skillet.
And along the way, I inadvertently stumbled onto a solution to my potato chip problem. Seriously, these chips look a little eerie, but they. are. perfect. They’re almost lighter than air, glossy and dark, with a slightly bitter, nutty flavor, and just the right hint of salty bite.
About the salt: one of the nutritional nuggets I picked up during the making of the Thing I Can’t Tell You About Yet is that salt cravings are not actually about sodium chloride. In fact, they usually signal a need for the other trace materials found in unrefined salt. So, more often than not, regular iodized table salt will not sate a salt craving. But sea salt will–at least, the kind of sea salt that lists “salt” as its only ingredient. And because it’s more voluminous, a little goes a long way. So I recommend sea salt. End of spiel.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be fully free of the chip specter. They haunt the edges of my consciousness, in weak moments, with the promise of primal satisfaction. But I have to say, these alien-looking nori chips come darn close. They might even be worth–gasp–buying a whole pack of nori for.
1 package nori (Japanese seaweed)
Sesame oil for brushing
Sea salt, to taste
Separate the nori sheets. Brush the shiny side of each sheet verrrrrrry lightly with sesame oil, and sprinkle with salt. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. One at a time, lay the nori sheets in the skillet, non-oiled side down, and toast for 10-15 seconds, just until they start to get crisp. Turn over and toast for another 10 seconds, just until they’re no longer soft. Watch them carefully–they’ll burn incredibly quickly.
Use a kitchen scissors to cut the crisp nori into chip-shaped pieces. Eat mindlessly, while watching spoiled New York women try on wedding dresses (or whatever floats your trashy TV boat).