Heaven: sandwich, beer, potato tots. Photo
courtesy Red Duck Ketchup.
They’re not quite senior citizens, but Tater Tots® hit the big 6-0 this year. You could buy a box to celebrate, or you could make your own, tastier tots—bite-size potato croquettes—from scratch.
The Idaho Potato Commission salutes the tot as both an inspired potato product and a springboard for potato creativity. Its website boasts a collection of innovative tot recipes and variations on the theme.
For example, enhance the potato mixture with:
Aromatics, such as truffles
Herbs (parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme)
Onion or scallion—lots more than in Tater Tots*
Stuffed Tots with elaborate fillings:
Simple proteins (crumbled bacon, shredded crab, Parmesan, blue cheese)
Poutine (brown gravy and cheese curds†)
*The ingredients in Tater Tots are potato, vegetable oil, salt, corn flour, onions, dextrose (a simple sugar also known as glucose), disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate (an antioxidant that prevents potatoes from turning brown) and natural flavoring.
*Traditional poutine consists of these toppings on fries, but we’re borrowing them for tots.
TATER TOTS VS. POTATO TOTS
The term Tater Tots is used generically, like Kleenex; although it’s a trademark of Ore-Ida, which invented the little potato bites in 1953. If you’re referring to anything but the Tater Tots brand, call them “potato tots.”
Tater Tots are made from deep-fried, grated potatoes, resulting in crisp little cylinders of hash brown-style potatoes. Tater is American dialect for potato, and “tots” came from their small size.
Ore-Ida founders, brothers F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg, were considering what to do with leftover slivers of cut-up potatoes from their signature French fries. They chopped them up, mixed them with flour and seasonings, and pushed logs of the grated/mashed potato mixture through a form, slicing off and frying small pieces.
Tater Tots began to arrive in grocery stores in 1954. They quickly caught on as a snack food, a side dish and the foundation for casseroles at dinner tables across America.
The Ore-Ida brand was acquired by H. J. Heinz Company in 1965.
LOADED POTATO TOTS
This potato tot recipe borrows from the “loaded baked potato” concept, adding bacon, chives, shredded cheese and sour cream.
2½ pounds russet potatoes, divided
2 ounces bacon, double-smoked, cooked, chopped
6 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
1 ounce butter, melted
1 ounce heavy cream
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt, as needed
2 cups flour
6 each eggs, lightly whipped
2 quarts vegetable oil for frying
Loaded Potato Tots. Photo and recipe courtesy Idaho Potato Commission.
1. BOIL 2 pounds of potatoes. Cool, peel and mash.
2. COMBINE bacon, cheese, chives, butter, cream, pepper and salt to taste in a large bowl; blend well. Roll into 1-ounce pieces, place on wax paper-lined sheet pan and chill overnight.
3. SHRED remaining potatoes, using a box grater, into a shallow bowl.
4. PLACE flour in another shallow bowl. Roll potato tots in flour to lightly coat then coat in egg. Roll in shredded potatoes to form crust. Return to sheet pan and chill.
5. HEAT oil to 375°F in a heavy-bottomed pot, and fry balls until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel to drain. Season with salt and serve.
AND THERE’S MORE
Recipe: Baked Potato Tots
History of potatoes