My first Tatar-Tot-experience was from my mediocre Jr. High School’s cafeteria. Even still, they were delicious and I never figured out why my mother never made Tator Tots when I was growing up. I have always loved them, and I’ve made them for my kids many, many times; but only from a bag. So I was excited to see in the latest season of Cook’s Country that Tator Tots can be made from scratch. I made them for a recent sleepover with 5 teenage boys. They were easy to make, but there were a few minor problems. First, 10 minutes in my microwave didn’t seem to fully cook the potatoes, compromising both texture and flavor. They were just undercooked, not raw, so an extra 2 to 4 minutes would be enough extra time. Second, I failed to properly estimate the amount of time they would take to prepare. Budget a full 1-1/2 hours. Third, the boys wanted the Tots to be round; not square. Fortunately, the bar to make a sleepover a success is set pretty low; having more to do with the smile on my face than perfectly cooked Tator Tots. As they were, I can only give them 3-1/2 stars. Not worth the effort when compared to the bag. But I will try them again and update the review if I am more successful next time.
- Chris Kimball warns that if you have a food processor with capacity less than 11 cups, that you need to process the potatoes in two batches. I did this, using half the water in each batch.
- When I pressed the water out of the potatoes I didn’t check to see if I yielded 1-1/2 cups of liquid. If I didn’t, that may explain why the potatoes didn’t fully cook during the 10 minutes in the microwave.
- Chris Kimball says that you can cool the fried leftovers, then put in a zip-lock bag. They can be frozen for up to 1 month. Bake at 400-degrees for 12 to 15 minutes to re-heat.
Rating: 3-1/2 star.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Low.
Started: 4:30 pm. Dinner Time: 6:00.
Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below, but the ingredient list has already increased the amount of cheese according to my recommendations above :
2-1/4 teaspoons table salt
2-1/2 lbs russet potatoes
1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups vegetable oil
- Whisk 1 cup water and salt together in bowl until salt dissolves.
- Peel your potatoes and cut them into 1-1/2″ pieces.
- In one or two batches depending upon the size of your food processor, add the potatoes chunks and water. Pulse 10 to 12 times until the potatoes become coarsely ground. Empty into a fine mesh strainer and use a rubber spatula to press out 1-1/2 cups of liquid.
- Put potatoes into a large glass bowl and microwave (uncovered) for 10 to 14 minutes; stir potatoes once after 5 minutes. The potatoes should become dry and sticky.
- Add 1-1/2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, mix until combined. Allow to cool for 10 minutes by spreading the potatoes out on a foil-lined sheet pan. Use a spatula to push the mixture to the center of the foil, and put in an 8″ square cake pan. Use a spatula to evenly spread the potatoes, then fold the foil over and firmly press the potatoes to ensure they are even, compact and fill the corners. Freeze for 30 minutes, so that they are easier to cut.
- While the potatoes freeze, begin pre-heating your oil over a high burner to 375-degrees (about 10 minutes). If you want to serve both batches at the same time, pre-heat your oven to 200-degrees. I served the first batch immediately, and therefore didn’t pre-heat my oven.
- Use the foil to lift the potatoes and put them on a cutting board. Cut them into bite-sized tots. Depending upon the exact size of your cake pan, that could be 6×8 or 5×9.
- When the oil reaches 375-degrees, use a wide, metal spatula to gently lower half your tots into the oil (without splashing). Fry each batch for 6 to 7 minutes until they become crispy and golden brown.
- Remove from oil as they become ready and drain on a wire rack set over a foil-lined sheet pan. Season with salt. Keep the fist batch warm in your 200-degree oven while you cook the second batch. Repeat steps 8 and 9 for the second batch.