Tortilla Chips

When ruffled glass candy bowls commonly waited on coffee tables, cups of salted nuts and glasses of iced celery sticks often arrived with drinks. The Dip Revolution brought dried onion soup dip, clam dip, dill dip. Calories piled on with cream cheese, sour cream and potato chips until the Fat Squad turned our eyes toward leaner salsas and corn chips. All chip makers claim to use the best oil for your health, and all tout the same number of calories per serving. But I’ve found the best oil when I’ve selected and measured it myself. A great fan of the simple Mexican corn tortilla, I’ve been searching for the prime corn chip, and now think I have it.

First I need good corn tortillas. Here in Chicagoland with a large Latino population, we see superb Mexican products in many food markets. My favorite tortilla brand is El Milagro; as its name implies, it’s a “miracle” of flavor. Currently a dozen fresh corn tortillas sell for forty to fifty cents, a bargain.

With my pack of twelve tortillas and two tablespoons of good olive oil plus a few pinches of kosher salt, I’m in business. I use one hand to drizzle the oil, sprinkle the salt and the other hand to spread the oil. With the stack of tortillas on a cutting board in front of me, I swirl about ½ teaspoon olive oil on a tortilla, spread the oil over the entire surface, sprinkle with salt and top with the next tortilla. When all twelve have been oiled and salted, I divide the pile into two stacks of six. I slice each stack in half, then cut each half into thirds. Each tortilla makes six equal triangles. I spread the triangles, oiled side up, in a single layer on sheet pans and bake them in a moderate oven about fifteen minutes or until the chips feel crisp. I turn off the oven and allow them to crisp up even more as the oven cools. Actually the tortilla chips will bake at almost any temperature. If the oven is hotter, they will cook faster; if lower, they will take longer.

Just keep checking. Once the chips are crisp and cool, tip them into a cookie tin and store them until you’re ready to serve them with homemade guacamole or salsa. You’ll find the chips great tasting with fewer than half the calories of the fried brands.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at


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