Tater Tots – the potato snack/side so easily found in the grocery store frozen aisle, are not something that really need to be made at home. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. So I decided to conduct a little experiment subbing sweet potatoes for the more traditional Russets. I’m writing this adventure up as a food experiment* rather than a recipe so I can return to it later in the MoFo with improvements.
Here’s what went into the tots:
- 2 lbs sweet garnet sweet potatoes (the really orange ones), peeled, cut into long chunks
- 2 TBS minced shallots
- 1 TBS minced fresh thyme
- 1 tsp. salt
- generous amount of fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 2 TBS Potato Starch
Here’s what I did:
- Steamed sweet potatoes for 10 minutes. I wanted them to be softened a little but not so soft that they would end up being mashed.
- Shredded the sweet potato chunks in a food processor with the shredding attachment.
- Mixed the shredded sweet potatoes with the remainder of ingredients.
- Formed into the mixture into cylindrical shapes approximately 3/4” thick.
- Chilled the cylinders on a covered baking sheet in the fridge for roughly 2 hours. I felt chilling would help firm up the shapes and make it easier to form the nuggets.
- Preheated one quart of safflower oil to 375F. I don’t have a fryer so I did this in a regular stainless steel pot, adjusting the oven flame as necessary to maintain temperature.
- Cut the cylinders into nuggets and rounded the edges gently with my fingers.
- Fried the nuggets in batches until they browned, roughly 4-5 minutes each batch, checking the temperature of the oil between batches. As each batch finished I scooped out the tots with a slotted spoon and put them in a paper bag lined colander to soak up the excess oil.
What went right:
- The flavor/ spices/ ingredients – The balance here was great. I tasted shallots and thyme with each bite, but the spices didn’t overpower the sweet potatoes. The only thing I might change here is to add just a smidge of lemon juice to perk things up.
- The shape – I’m glad these kept a nice tot shape. I saw a lot of blobby looking homemade tots when researching recipes for guidance and I can say with confidence that I succeeded in producing nice round tots.
What went wrong(ish – these were still delish, but here’s what I’d improve):
- The insides didn’t quite heat up as much as I would have liked. I think the chilling step was probably unnecessary. I’ll skip it next time and see how it goes.
- The texture – They were a little soft and didn’t get the nubbly-ness that commercial tater tots have. My plan to improve this is to reduce the steaming time to 6-8 minutes and/or give the chunks a quick cold water rinse. Even after shredding the potatoes were at much warmer than room temp and the texture continued to move closer to a mashed potato texture. I wanted to keep the tots a closely knit collective of nubs, rather than a completely unified body.
The final verdict:
I’m looking forward to improving the recipe and finding an appropriate condiment (perhaps cayenne spiked ketchup). Cleanup is always a pain when deep frying, but hey, they’re TOTs.
*Note: I have no idea how actual scientific experiments are written up so please no throwing scientific shade my way. I haven’t taken a lab science class since high school, which was sometime between 4 and 14 years ago (a PINEAPPLE never reveals his age).