They’re made just the same as crisps, or what we call potato chips – only with beets. The process is simple. Peel the beets, then slice them as thinly as you can. The thinner they are, the crisper they will be. If they are too thick, they will not get crisp. If you have a mandoline or Japanese slicer, this is the time to dust it off. If you’re good with a knife, you can cut even, thin slices. You can also use the slicing disc of a food processor, or even a broad swivel-headed peeler.
Put 4 to 5 inches of oil in an electric fryer or deep, heavy pot (the oil should come no more than halfway to the top of the pot). Heat it to 375°F (190°C). The choice of oil is yours. Many people swear by lard or other animal fats for frying vegetables. Other options are vegetable oils with a high smoke point (the temperature at which they burn), such as safflower oil or rapeseed oil (known as canola oil in North America). Sunflower oil and solid vegetable shortening have smoke points too close to the ideal frying temperature to be practical,(392°F or 200°C for sunflower and around 370°F or 188°C for vegetable shortening). If the oils are not absolutely fresh, the smoke point is even lower.
Without using a thermometer, it will be difficult to know that your oil has reached the desired temperature, but in the absence of one, toss a cube of white bread into the oil. It should turn golden brown in about 50 seconds if the temperature is right. Fry the beet slices in small batches until lightly crisped, turning them occasionally with a slotted spoon. If you add too many slices at a time, you may have trouble keeping them from clumping together, and they will lower the temperature of the oil, which will result in more grease being absorbed by the food. They will become a little crisper as they cool, so take them out of the oil before they’re well done. Drain the beet slices on paper towels, and sprinkle them with a little salt. Your restaurant cook may have sprinkled them with a little spice or herb, but we’ll have to let you experiment on your own to match his results.
The same process will work well for carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, turnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, taro root, and yucca root. Vegetables with a high sugar content – carrots, sweet potatoes, and your beloved beets – will darken more quickly than some of the other vegetables. Potatoes and other vegetables that are quite moist will sputter a bit when they go into the oil, so take care.