A tater tot is a side dish made from deep-fried, grated potatoes. They are widely recognised by their crispness, cylindrical shape, and small size.
History of Tater Tots
The product was created in 1953 when Ore-Ida founders F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg were trying to figure out what to do with leftover slivers of cut-up potatoes. They chopped up the slivers, added flour and seasoning, then pushed the mash through holes and sliced off pieces of the extruded mixture. The product was first offered in stores in 1956.
Originally, the product was very inexpensive. According to advertising lectures at Iowa State University, people did not buy it at first because there was no perceived value. When the price was raised, people began buying it.
In the United States, tater tots are common at school-lunch counters and cafeterias. They’re also sold in the frozen food sections of supermarket. Some fast-food restaurants also offer them.
The supermarket chain Safeway Inc. has a generic brand, “Tater Treats”. The Sonic Drive-In drive-in fast-food restaurant chain also features “Tater Tots” as a regular menu item, with the option of cheese, chilli, or both as toppings; tots with cheese are branded “Cheesy Tots”. Cheesy Tots are coin-shaped and, as implied by the name, contain melted cheese as well as potatoes. Several restaurants in the Pacific Northwest offer a nacho version of tots (“Totchos“), covered in nacho cheese sauce and toppings.
Some Mexican-style fast-food restaurants offer seasoned Tater Tots: Taco Time and Señor Frog’s call them “Mexi-Fries”, while Taco Bell used to sell them as “Mexi-Nuggets” and “Border Fries”. Taco Mayo in the Southwest offers round disc-shaped tater tots called “Potato Locos.” Taco John’s also has coin shaped tots called “Potato Olés”.
In some areas of the Northeast, however, they are often called “juliennes” or “potato puffs“. In the Midwest states, Tater Tot Hotdish is a very popular soup-based casserole consisting of tater tots, ground beef, and various vegetables. Tater Tots are extensively referenced in the film Napoleon Dynamite.
Rest of the world
Here in n Australia, they are known as “potato gems“, “potato royals” or “potato pom-poms” (also used in New Zealand). In the United Kingdom, Ross Frozen Foods once produced “oven crunchies” which are no longer available, but are still produced and sold under the name “potato crunchies” by supermarket chain Morrisons. In Canada, McCain Foods Limited calls its line “Tasti Taters“. Cascadian Farm calls its line “Spud Puppies“.
- 550 g Coliban potatoes (about 2 medium), scrubbed
- ¾ tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed
- 1½ to 2 cups canola oil, for frying
- Heat the oven to 230°C and arrange a rack in the middle. Place the potatoes in the oven and bake until easily pierced with a knife but still firm in the centre, about 35 to 40 minutes. (If you have 3 smaller potatoes, cook them about 25 to 30 minutes.)
- When cool enough to handle but still hot, peel away the skin using a paring knife and discard.
- Shred the potatoes on the large holes of a box grater.
- Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl, sprinkle in the flour and salt, and mix until combined.
- Measure 1 teaspoon of the potato mixture and roll into a short cylinder about 4 cm long and 2 cm wide. Place on a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining potato mixture.
- Line a second baking sheet with paper towels; set aside.
- Add enough of the oil to a large frying pan to reach about 6 mm up the sides and set over medium-high heat until hot, about 5 minutes. Check to see if the oil is hot by submerging the handle of a wooden spoon or wooden chopstick till it touches the bottom of the pan—the oil should bubble vigorously.
- When it’s ready, fry the tots in batches of 8 to 10 pieces (do not overcrowd the pan), turning once, until medium golden brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the paper-towel-lined baking sheet and season with salt. Serve immediately with your desired dipping sauce.