Thursday, March 21, 2013

Celebrate National Chip & Dip Day - 03/23/13

According to epicurean legend, and my 6th grade reader from my days in elementary school, in 1853 an unhappy customer at a restaurant in Saratoga Springs, NY kept returning his fried potatoes to the chef, requesting they be prepared much thinner. After they were returned for the fifth time, the exasperated chef sliced them paper thin, deep fried the slices, and sprinkled them with salt.

Wallah, the potato chip was born.

It took about 60 years for the salty snacks to evolve from being strictly restaurant food to being sold in bags for home consumption.  Before long, consumers grew board with only one flavor of chip, salt.  Thus, the 1950s saw the introduction of the first flavored chip, Tayto's Cheese & Onion, followed soon by BBQ and Sour Cream & Onion.

This longing for flavor, during the 50s also saw the emergence of the dip, at least I think it did. I'm pretty proficient at researching material online, and I can't find mention of any "dip recipe" from the 50s.  However in 1947, Fannie Farmer’s The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook lists recipes for, "cocktail spreads intended for use with canapés or hors d’oeuvres devised from crackers."

Fast forward thirteen years, and The Oxford English Dictionary cites the earliest printed appearance of the word “dip,” at least in the culinary sense of the word, as having come in the following sentence from James Kirkwood’s 1960 book There Must be a Pony!: “We were up to our necks in dips: clam dip, cheese dip, mushroom dip.”  Thus, it seems obvious that something happened during that thirteen year gap to add, at least those three, dips to our vocabulary.  Parties haven't been the same since.

So, how do you define a potato chip and a dip?

First the potato chip.  Believe it or not, this question has a legal answer. In 1975 competitors of Pringles brought the manufacturer of Pringles to court claiming the canned snack is made from pressed potato flour, and therefore isn't a, "chip of potato."  The ruling resulted in the following definition for "potato chip" being adopted as law: "A thin slice of potato fried in deep fat until crisp and then usually seasoned."  Potato snacks made from pressed potato flour must be labeled as chips made from dried potatoes or potato crisps.

As for dips, most people would define a dip as, "a tasty mixture or liquid into which bite-sized foods are dipped." However, Alton Brown adds the criteria that a dip must, "maintain contact with its transport mechanism over three feet of white carpet."  I can see how this addition would be useful for tidy party hosts.  Yet, it excludes salsas, ranch dips, blue cheese dips, nacho dips, and too many others to be a useful part of a practical definition.

At this point, many bloggers would post a recipe for homemade potato chips, citing one's ability to control salt levels, etc...  I've never made my own chips.  With the numerous varieties on the market that are; low fat, low salt, kettle cooked, all natural, etc...; for only a few bucks a bag, I've never seen making my own chips as being time or cost effective.  However, if you want to make your own you can visit Our Best Bites for the recipe.

Dip's a different story though, making dip takes almost no time or effort and gives you control over texture, flavor strength, salt.....   My favorite is the tried and true Classic Onion Dip.


Classic Onion Dip

This is a variation of your basic Onion Dip, A.K.A. French Onion Dip, recipe.  While some recipes don't specify the type of onion to be used, I'm recommending green onions, or scallions,  for a milder flavor.  If you want a stronger tasting dip, feel free to substitute red or yellow onions (which may take up to 20 minutes to caramelize), as long as you're not planning to kiss someone soon after.

Some recipes season the dip with ground white pepper for aesthetic purposes as well as for taste.  Honestly, black pepper and white pepper  photo chipdip1.jpgtaste the same to me, and the visual contrast delivered by ground black pepper doesn't bother me.  Thus, if you have black, and not white, pepper I can't see making a special white pepper purchase just to make this dip.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1 cup finely chopped green onions
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a sauté pan over medium heat add oil, heat and add onions and salt. Cook the onions until they are caramelized, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Mix the rest of the ingredients, and then add the cooled onions. Refrigerate and stir again before serving.


Healthier dips from around the web include:
Finally, everything has its rules of etiquette, and chip & dip is no exception.  Here are just  few reminders.
  • Seinfeld fans know double-dipping, or; dipping a food, biting it, and redipping it into communal dip; is a first class no no.  If you HAVE to redip, spoon some dip onto your plate and use that portion to keep your germs out of the communal dip.
  • Don't dip past the first knuckle was my dad's was of telling us kids not to put our hands into the communal dip.  Only the food should come into contact with the dip, not the dipper's skin or nail.
  • Don't abandon a chip that's lost in the dip, grab a spoon and fish it out.  People don't want to scoop up your soggy chip with their chip by accident.
Hopefully, you've found something here which will help you enjoy National Chip & Dip Day this Saturday (03/23/13).  In comments below, let me know your dip of choice. 

Classic Onion Dip recipes prints as page 3 for your refrigerator or recipe file. 


  1. There is goes..

    Anyway, I could live on chips and dips alone. I usually buy the dry mix, but need to try your recipe. Thanks for the great blog post/history and recipe. You rock!!!

    1. I could too, they're practically dietary staples, aren't they. Glad you liked the entry. :-)