I’ve had a nagging idea in the back of my mind for awhile now about making homemade tots. I’ve only written about the frozen variety once before when I wrote about one of Betsy’s favorite meals: Dogs and Tots. I think that this meal may be part of the reason she decided it would be cool to spend her life with me…
What’s not to like about tots? They are crispy and salty and delicious! But is it really possible to make them at home if you don’t have a ridiculous potato processing plant at your disposal?
The answer is a very big YES.
I’m actually shocked at how well these turned out, but I have to give some props to a new restaurant in town that gave me the push I needed to give these a try. Birch & Barley, a new beer shop in town with really fantastic food, has these on the menu and they are filled with mashed potatoes. I had one (literally I just got one and then they were all gone) and I decided I had to give it a shot.
1) Peel and slice potatoes.
2) Boil potatoes for 10-15 minutes in salted water until the potato pieces are fork tender. Then drain them and transfer them to a bowl.
3) Using a fork, mush up potatoes and let them cool for a few minutes until they are room temperature or slightly warmer.
4) Add milk, butter, and egg. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.
5) Drop a few teaspoons of mashed potatoes in bowl of crust. Roll them around until they are coated all the way around.
6) Pick up each tot and shape it easily in your hand. Just make a light fist around the tot while pinching it on the ends with your other hand. That will make it shape into the cylinder you are probably familiar with.
7) Transfer it to a baking sheet and repeat!
8) Heat oil to 350 degrees.
9) Cook them in batches for about 5-7 minutes per batch.
10) Scoop out of the oil, transfer them to a paper towel and salt them immediately
11) Serve with sauce – ranch, chili sauce, ketchup, etc.
Making the tots
It should be no surprise that these guys start with potatoes.
The first step for these guys is to make mashed potatoes. Now I’m not sure how they make real tater tots. I know it’s closer to a hash brown product, but mashed potatoes are a lot easier to shape and also happen to be delicious.
To start, just peel and slice your potatoes.
Boil them for 10-15 minutes in salted water until the potato pieces are fork tender. Then drain them and transfer them to a bowl.
Using a fork, mush up your potatoes and let them cool for a few minutes until they are room temperature or slightly warmer. Then add your milk, butter, and egg. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper. If you aren’t afraid of a little raw egg, I recommend trying a bit to taste for seasonings.
A test run
Before I made a bunch of these, I wanted to do a test run just to make sure they worked okay. I’ll admit that my first test run, I tried making a few without the flour or eggs in the mashed potato filling. DISASTER! They just completely disintegrated in the oil. So then I added the flour and egg and gave it a second try.
To make the crunchy exterior of the tot and also give it some shape, I decided to try out two different toppings: crunched up kettle chips and Panko breadcrumbs. Both worked pretty well actually.
Here is my successful test run result!
After I saw these come out of the oil and tasted them, I was very excited about making (and eating) a bunch of them.
Making the tots
The key to making these easily is to not worry about shaping the tot until after it’s coated. I tried to make mine pretty uniform by using a heaping teaspoon for each tot. Just drop a few teaspoons of mashed potatoes in your bowl of crust. Roll them around until they are coated all the way around.
Then you can easily pick up each tot and shape it easily in your hand. Just make a light fist around the tot while pinching it on the ends with your other hand. That will make it shape into the cylinder you are probably familiar with. Then you can transfer it to a baking sheet and keep cranking them out!
After a few minutes – or honestly about 20 – you should have a small army of these guys.
Cooking the tots
You can cook these guys right away! The key to frying them is to make sure that your oil is hot enough. It needs to be at about 350 degrees. If your oil isn’t hot enough then the outside of the tot won’t cook fast enough and the inside will get too hot and it’ll kind of ooze out. Still edible, but just not as attractive!
Cook them in batches and they should only need about 5-7 minutes per batch.
Once you scoop them out of the oil, transfer them to a paper towel and salt them immediately. I also put seasoned salt on them for a little extra flavor. Feel free to go crazy with the spices!
I served mine with ranch and hot chili sauce. It looks like ketchup, but I hate ketchup so this is what you get!
Just for good measure, one more shot of these guys.
I liked both versions of the tots. The Panko-crusted ones (in the back) looked closer to real tater tots and held their shape nicely. I thought the chip-crusted ones tasted better though. But just by a tiny amount. Both were very good.
If you have any leftovers, you can reheat these in a 350 degree oven until they crisp up again. They aren’t quite as good on day two, but still pretty darn tasty.
So there ya go. Homemade tater tots. Pass it along!