A tale of Tater Tots
Iconic potato tots inspire a culture of recipes, memories, imitators
Time-tested: As the last almost 60 years have proved, F. Nephi Grigg's little brainstorm — a plug of shredded potato — has been an enormous success. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
Note: Lara Ferroni, author of "Real Snacks: Make Your Favorite Childhood Treats without All the Junk," likes to grate a little sweet potato or yam into her tots. She also keeps the potato skin on to preserve more nutrients. Her recipe, adapted from Cooks Country magazine, calls for corn flour and ground millet flour; substitute whole-wheat flour if you prefer.
2 pounds russet potatoes (5-6 medium potatoes), cut into chunks
1 medium sweet potato or yam (1/4 pound), cut into chunks
2 cups cold water
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons each: corn flour, ground millet flour
Pinch cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
Safflower or peanut oil, for frying
1. Place the potatoes in a food processor. Pulse 5 or 6 times until coarsely ground.
2. Combine the cold water and 2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl. Add potatoes; stir to coat. Drain well through a fine sieve, pushing out as much water as you can.
3. Transfer the potatoes to a microwave-safe bowl; microwave, 4 minutes. Stir; microwave, 4 minutes. Stir in the corn flour, millet flour, cayenne and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.
4. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment; pour in the potato mixture. Spread it evenly; cool to room temperature. Chill in the freezer until frozen, at least 20 minutes. Cut into 1-by-11/2-inch tots.
5. Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a deep saucepan or skillet to 370 degrees. Fry the tots in batches, being sure not to crowd the pan, until tots are golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Remove the tots with a slotted spoon; place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Repeat with the remaining tots. Serve immediately.