Obedient Ingredients

A place to put cooking ideas to the test.

Sage Chips: or How I Stopped Worrying and Love Flour Coating

5 Comments

Warning: non-scientific (yet yummy) experiments below.

Food experiments in this blog fall into two categories of preparation:

a) planned out ahead of time, with research and getting the right ingredients;

b) Deciding on the spot to test something out with the food I have in my kitchen, usually in a hunger induced haze.

This is something I did on the fly. I had leftover sage. I wanted to have them in fried form.

So what was the best way to get these wise leaves crunchy?

The search for this answer while leaving out thorough research, and we get today’s experiment: what is the difference between frying sage with and then without a flour coating? And what is the simplest, best way to coat them for a good crunch?

BONUS POST: Not all of my food experiments go well, so today we learn the important lesson that failing is OK…

Trying out a new recipe on the fly really tests one’s cooking knowledge and skill. So when the idea to make sage chips popped into my head out of no where, I just did what I thought would be best. That means virtually no research; just relying on my skill.

First, I thought about frying vegetables and getting them crispy. Two methods came to mind:

a) frying the veggies with no coating in the oil

b) frying the veggees with a coating of some sort

I had sage in the fridge and I wanted to make chips out of them.

Sage is an herb commonly used in Mediterranean foods, a dry, slightly furry leaf that can be added to dishes to impart a nice flavor. It is not commonly eaten raw.

During this on-the-fly experiment, I did have some time to check the top two Google links under “sage chips”.

This recipe calls for vegetable oil and no coating. The second recipe, called Tuscan Sage Chips, called for olive oil, and still no coating.

So I decided to use vegetable oil, since that has a higher smoke point and apparently fries things better when heated (see below for more explanation).

I also decided to test these naked sage leaves against coating them in flour.

WHY would I coat something in just flour? Well, because I’ve done it before with eggplant and when I fry it, it actually comes out pretty crispy. I know that sage leaves and eggplant chunks are worlds apart, but I just wanted to try it out! What could go wrong?? (This is called foreshadowing).

Simple on-the-fly experiment:

1) Heat cast iron skillet (over medium heat) with vegetable oil (enough to create a thin layer of oil over the whole pan).

2) Take sage leaves from stems.

3) Coat half in flour.

4) Fry (for about 30-50 seconds or until it browned)

5) Remove and put on paper towel. Apply sea salt.

And that’s what I did.

I chose vegetable oil over olive oil because I wanted a higher smoke point.

I can hear your thoughts now: “Smoking point, eh? Sounds like this post will do some educating at this point.” Just a little…

Smoking point essentially means I wanted an oil that can get hotter without burning. The higher the smoke point, the hotter the oil is heated, which means more frying. Burnt oil means smoke in the kitchen and burnt flavored food.

Vegetable oil (also known as soybean oil) has a high smoking point: 450 degrees F. This oil is widely used in frying. I have made the mistake of using EVOO to deep fry food, and the oil starts to burn very easily.

Anyway, I followed steps 1-4. I watched the sage chips like a hawk because I knew they would become crisp very quickly.

Results of first on-the-fly experiment:

Everything seemed to be sizzling fine …. but then the flour started coming off a few seconds after dancing in the oil. Pretty much all of it came off. And the flour that stayed on the leaf got burnt real quickly.

AND the flour-coated sage took longer to become crispy, but what was the point if it burnt faster?

:(

Sad faces all around. The sage sans flour tasted nice, especially with the sea salt. But there was an obvious burnt taste to the ones coated in flour.

Conclusion of first experiment:

The sage left alone tasted fine; it was clearly way better than the sage coated with flour. The ones with the flour tasted burnt and slightly bitter. But I’ll be honest, at the time, the sage chips that was not coated in flour didn’t blow my mind. They were just…all right. A fried leaf.

I was frustrated. Am I not supposed to coat sage in flour when I want to fry something? Did I need to create an entire batter (flour+eggs and milk+bread crumbs)? I could have, but I wanted the coating to be subtle. Should I have baked it instead?

How can I coat something so delicate and thin while producing a thin sheen of crunchy delight?

The Right Way to Make Sage Chips

A year ago a buddy of mine brought sage chips to a party. They were great. I mean, very good. The crisp was perfect. I wanted that crisp. I wanted it badly.

I wrote him an email asking for his recipe/technique for how he made these sage chips.

And, ohmygod you guys…what he told me was so simple and (spoiler alert) in the end they tasted amazing. I think he gave away some secret family recipe for batter that he was not supposed to tell me. This combination of simple ingredients created the perfect texture to the sage chips, I feel like once I learned it, a giant boulder would start rolling toward me from a secret trap door in the ceiling, with poisoned darts flying out of the wall at me.

Or perhaps I’m an idiot and I simply am not well versed as a cook to know something as stupidly easy as batter. Here it is for you:

Equal parts water and equal parts flour.

It was just so easy and it made sense! The sage leaves are too dry so they did not absorb the flour coating (unlike when I did it for eggplants). Oh, also, my buddy told me to use olive oil. So I started all over again. Buh!

Simple Experiment #2:

1) Heat normal frying pan over medium heat (I was scared of using my cast iron, fearing it would be too hot) with oilive oil (enough to create a thin layer of oil over the whole pan).

2) Take sage leaves from stems.

3) Coat all of them in the water/flour coating.

4) Fry (for about 30-50 seconds or until it browned)

5) Remove and put on paper towel. Apply sea salt (I used Hawaiian Red salt because it looked better).

A really nice thick consistency.

Got the oil hot and covered the whole pan.

A nice coating.

I also put a dollop of batter in the oil to test how hot it really is. I learned my lesson from the first experiment.

It begins!

After about a minute, they look and feel crispy.

Some red sea salt.

Conclusion of Experiment 2

You guys. Ohmygod you guys! They were amazing. Perfect texture, cooked enough that you didn’t get the bitter taste from biting into a sage leaf, yet a great sage taste.

Essentially, this is how I felt when I looked back at my first attempt:

In the end, I’m very happy, because the amateur move I made with flour and the brilliance of the equal parts water and flour made me a more sage cook (you knew that pun would make its way in here somehow). I cannot wait to try out this batter with more vegetables and herbs.

Bring sage chips to your next party. Experiment with the batter (by adding other seasoning). Try putting these crispy babies in burgers, or perhaps crumble them up as a crunchy topping on potatoes!

My mistakes are your cooking lessons.

You’re welcome.

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5 thoughts on “Sage Chips: or How I Stopped Worrying and Love Flour Coating

  1. Fried sage? Wow, this sounds fabulous!

  2. I learned several new things today. Can’t wait to try them!

  3. I want some sage chips RIGHT NOW.

  4. Love your blog! This looks awesome!

  5. Ahh! I wish I’d known about this last year — I had a sage plant that just refused to die and no one knew what to do with it. Next time!

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