What a freakin’ weekend I had, y’all. (Copyright R. Kelly, 2003) I’m still reeling from three days of binge eating, day drinking, and hobnobbing with some of the nation’s foodie elites at the Austin Food & Wine Festival. By “hobnobbing,” of course, I mean awkwardly standing behind them pretending to text but really eavesdropping on their conversations with other important people.
As far as festivals in Austin go, this is really the only one that has anything to offer me. I don’t really listen to music that isn’t Billy Joel or Beyoncé, so Austin City Limits and South by Southwest always feel like a homework assignment to not embarrass myself in front of the cool kids. Smoking weed takes me on an introspective journey through all of the people I have disappointed in my lifetime, so Reggae Fest and Eeyore’s Birthday are also out of the question. (Don’t I sound like a super fun person? Call me if you want to hang out!)
Food and booze, though? Obviously I can get on board with that. Unfortunately for a poor post grad with culinary aspirations like myself, tickets to this event are generally out of reach, ranging from $250 – $850. That’s where the lovely folks at Kerrygold came in to save the day. Last fall, I entered their Ultimate Cheese Recipe contest with my recipe for Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips au Gratin. As it turned out, I won, and the prize was two VIP passes to the Austin Food and Wine Festival, along with- wait for it- FREE BUTTER AND CHEESE FOR A YEAR.
That’s right. My upcoming recipes just got a whole lot sexier, didn’t they?
But anyway, back to the festival. I spent the weekend getting total VIP treatment- wining and dining of course, but mainly just wandering around and gawking at celebrity chefs, doing a lot of “Should I go up to him? I should go up to him” and then not going up to him. A few of the notables that I remembered to take pictures of were Chopped judges Marcus Samuelsson and Marc Murphy as well as Top Chef winner and Austin culinary darling Paul Qui:
Some of them even allowed me to touch them.
Yeah, you could say it was a pretty incredible experience for a food nerd like me. Plus, I got treated like a celebrity by the awesome Irishmen manning the Kerrygold booth.
Let’s get a close up of that sign, why don’t we…
I have ARRIVED. Honestly, I’m glad the festival ended when it did because if it had gone on another day I probably would have staged a dramatic mental breakdown and shaved my head. If I ever achieve any degree of real fame it’s going to be bad news for everyone.
So a big THANK YOU to Kerrygold for giving me an opportunity to pretend to be important for a couple of days. Now let’s get to these chips…
I left the festival this weekend feeling greatly inspired by all of the culinary awesomeness going on around me. Also very drunk, but mainly inspired. The two go hand-in-hand, I think. I ate some of the best food I have ever had, and I really wanted to go home and recreate all of it.
While it’s hard to choose a favorite in situations like these, I think the winner of the weekend was Austin restaurant Jasper’s, which was serving this incredibly succulent and flavorful pork on soft, buttery slider rolls. These were amazing on their own, but to really take it over the top they served them with a side of potato chips smothered in a creamy blue cheese sauce. Freakin’ outrageous. I really wish I would have taken a picture, but I was too busy literally shoving them down my fat gullet. Those blue cheese chips- OMG. I would take a body shot of that sauce off of Danny DeVito; I swear to God.
Now that I’ve gotten your appetite all worked up with that mental picture, let’s move on to my recipe. In recreating this, I was also inspired by the cheeses they were sampling out at the Kerrygold booth. Look, y’all, I know I may seem biased because they are the ones who sponsored my lavish weekend, but I promise you their products are some of the best on the market. Just TRY their butter and tell me it doesn’t change your life.
Fittingly, they were sampling some of their blue cheese, which was SO creamy and perfectly tangy without being too overpowering. I knew it would be the perfect cheese for my recipe, and I went ahead and mixed it with their aged cheddar just to give a little greater depth of flavor. Using their garlic and herb butter for the roux of the cheese sauce only makes the sauce that much more perfect.
PASS ME THE DAMN SHOT GLASS. Sorry, gotta restrain myself here. It’s just. so. good.
Now that we have the sauce covered, let’s talk about the chips. I knew that I didn’t want to actually deep fry the chips- not necessarily because it’s unhealthy, but really just because it seemed like a hassle at the time. At first I tried doing them in the oven, but honestly I didn’t like the consistency. Some of them were burning, some of them weren’t cooked enough.
Then I remembered an old trick my Godmother (Hi Cis!) taught me. Use the MICROWAVE. I know, it might seem kind of ratchet, but I swear it works like a charm and is so easy. All you have to do is slice the potatoes (I did them a bit thicker since they have to stand up to the cheese sauce), coat them in oil, season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper, and microwave on high for 6 to 8 minutes, until the chips are all browned and crispy.
So now, technically, we could be done. Pour the sauce over the chips. Yum. But I wanna take this a step further- let’s transfer the chips to a cast iron skillet (or any oven safe dish), cover with sauce (and extra blue cheese), and put the whole thing under the broiler just for a couple minutes.
Cheddar and Blue Cheese Potato Chips
Serves: 4 – 6
1 1/2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
3 tbsp Kerrygold garlic and herb butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup whole milk
7 oz Aged Cheddar (preferably Kerrygold), shredded
6 oz blue cheese (preferable Kerrygold Cashel Blue), crumbled
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tbsp minced fresh chives
In a medium saucepan, melt butter, add flour, and whisk to combine. Let cook, whisking constantly, for about two minutes. Pour in milk and whisk until thickened. Add all of the cheddar cheese and about 3/4 of the blue cheese and stir until it is all melted. Taste and season with salt, if necessary.
Toss potatoes with a light coating of olive oil immediately after slicing to keep them from turning brown, and spread then evenly in a single layer on a microwave safe plate. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne, and microwave on high for 6 to 8 minutes, until potatoes are golden brown and crispy. Work in batches until all chips are done.
Layer the chips into a cast iron skillet (or any oven safe dish), and pour the blue cheese sauce on top, along with the rest of the blue cheese crumbles. Put this under the broiler for about two minutes until the cheese starts to melt and bubble. Remove from the oven and garnish with parsley and chives. Serve immediately.