There are so many times I read a recipe, can’t cook it in that moment, and then mentally shelve the idea for later. If I don’t totally forget about it, I’ll eventually come back around to try to make it..like a normal person would. But, once in awhile, there are recipes that get seriously stuck and bounce around my brain until I can execute them.After reading a Food Lab article by J. Kenji López-Alt on Serious Eats about the science behind making tater tots, it was almost all I could think about every time I walked into my kitchen. At any point over these past two weeks if you had asked me what I was making next in my kitchen, (or had even just said “what’s new with you?”) we might have had an awkward moment when I got giddy and shouted: “SWEET POTATO TOTS!”.If you think I’m exaggerating I have a couple of friends to refer you to.
The reason it took so long to actually get to frying up some taters was a jam-packed schedule filled with three amazing EatWith meals we hosted in eight days, family and friend gatherings for Rosh Hashanah, and a kitchen internship I started at Porsena under Chef Sara Jenkins (and for the next few weeks on Mondays under Chef Louisa Shafia at Lakh Lakh her Persian pop-up) So lots of awesome time in kitchens..sadly just no time for tots.
Tater tots always seemed liked one of those foods that “shouldn’t be too hard to make at home” and yet I don’t know many people who’ve attempted to create them in their own kitchens. It’s definitely way easier to buy a bag of frozen taters and then heat them up on demand but there’s something special about doing these homemade (isn’t there always?).On the tots scale these place way above the frozen kind but still slightly below my all time favorite tots -I think those are just unattainable greatness. These are spectacular, taste “real”, are super satisfying, and totally customizable (a good quality in any tot).
The truth is, they aren’t hard to make. The biggest commitment is time because you need to work in small batches but even then it’s not so long before you have a warm, crunchy, savory, salty bowl of tater tots sitting in front of you.
When I was ready to chow down on the tots I took a trip to the refrigerator to see what I could whip up for a dip and stumbled on half a container of sour cream. For one of the EatWith’s we did a make-you-own-taco dinner and there were still leftovers! I kind of forgot about that meal and was so surprised when I found the sour cream. We’re both lactose intolerant and it’s just one of those ingredients that gets used significantly less in our home.These tots were SO GOOD and would make for a perfect fall snack for anyone at anytime. You can add any “flavorings” you want -spices, meats, cheeses, vegetables. Just make sure if it’s a solid food flavor you’re adding that you don’t put too much in or the tots won’t hold together when you fry them. This recipe also works the same if you used white russet potatoes, they just won’t darken as much as these, even if you cook them for the same amount of time. Sweet potatoes just take on the color faster – the ones you see in the photos aren’t burnt.Also, if anyone ends up trying this with butternut squash (on my to-do list) please let me know how they turn out.All these tots needed when I was done with them was a beer and a football game.
Cheddar and Scallion Sweet Potato Tots
- 2 pounds Sweet potatoes (about 2 large potatoes), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 quarts Canola oil (you can also use peanut or vegetable - anything with a high smoke point)
- 1½ tsp Kosher salt
- ½ tsp Garlic salt (optional..if used, cut kosher salt by ½ tsp)
- 1 Tbsp Cornstarch or potato starch
- ½ tsp White sugar
- 2 ounces Shredded cheddar cheese (plus more if you're like me and need to snack on it...or melt it over the tots!)
- 2-3 Scallions sliced into thin rings (white and green parts)
- Black pepper
- Put the peeled and cubed potatoes in a bowl of cold water and agitate for 10 seconds by sloshing them around with your hands in the water. Remove them from the water and place them in a fine mesh strainer. Let them drain for at least 5 minutes.
- Heat oil in a large pan or Dutch oven over high heat till it reaches 350°F. I use a candy thermometer for this.
- Use a paper towel to absorb any excess water on the potatoes. Carefully add the potatoes to the hot oil. Stir them gently using either a wire spider or a spoon (like I did) until they're light golden brown and tender, about 4 minutes. Keep adjusting the flame to maintain oil temperature. You might want to work in two batches for this depending how large your pan is. The more you drop in the oil the more the temperature will drop and it will be much harder to achieve the color and tenderness you want without the potatoes taking on too much oil.
- Transfer the lightly fried cubes of potato to a paper towel-lined bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes and make sure to reduce the heat under the oil to low.
- Transfer ¼ of the potatoes to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until broken down into rough ¼ to ⅛th inch pieces, about eight 1-second pulses. Transfer to a mixing bowl and repeat with the remaining potatoes, working in three more batches
- Add salt, corn/potato starch, sugar, and black pepper to taste. Then mix in the cheese and scallions. Gently mix with your hands to combine - you don't want the little pieces to disappear!
- Shape into cylinders, or whatever shape you're feeling, with your hands. Again, go easy here and don't compress the mixture too much.
- Bring the oil back up to 350°F and add your shaped tots (you might want to work in batches here too). Allow the tots fry without moving them for 1 minute, then carefully separate and move with your spoon (or metal spider). Fry until golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes longer and adjust the temperature of the oil as needed.
- Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
- Season immediately with salt.
Make a dip for your tots (because, why wouldn't you?!): I mixed some lime juice with sour cream and scallions and all was right and well in my kitchen and stomach.
Slightly adapted from this Serious Eats recipe