The ubiquitous tater tot. Uniform. Cylindrical. Mercifully, too big to fit in the average 6 year old’s nostril. And, usually containing some weird stuff in addition to potatoes such as dextrose, disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate, dehydrated onion, sodium sulfate, natural flavoring. Gross.
Quarantine boredom, kids trapped in the house with me, potatoes, and oil. How hard can this be? It is essentially a small and simpler version of the potatoe latke my grandmother used to make 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Seriously, except when making soup, tzimmas, or yelling “geyn schlofn” (also seemingly 24/7) at me, she seemed to just be a latke machine.
Let’s Peel Some Potatoes!
Peeling potatoes is fun. Come on, how bad can it be? The army used peeling potatoes as punishment for screwups! Even Mickey Mouse had to do it! (And Costello in the great classic movie Buck Privates!)
So, let’s bring out our screwups! (not really, they even almost kinda-sorta volunteered for the job).
First peel the potatoes. For this experiment we used three standard russet potatoes.
This will move pretty quickly, so get a dutch oven or other deep pot filled at least a couple of inches deep with oil starting to warm up. You want the oil at about 350.
Next, we put them in a pot of cold water. We then brought that to a boil for 6 minutes (trying to par boil rather than actually soften like you would for mashed potatoes.
Next, we used a simple box shredder to give them a course shred. Too fine and you run the risk of the separate strands being crushed into a solid blob by the end.
Next step, let’s add some flavor and flour. The spices we used were 1 teaspoon garlic powder (next time I’d go 1.5 teaspoons), 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper. To that spice mixture I added 1 tablespoon of flour. Don’t overdo the salt ( teaspoon was fine) as you may want to add some when you pull them from the oil. The flour will coat the strands of potatoes and keep them from becoming one solid mushy mass.
Just mix the spices/flour in and you are on the home stretch.
We used a tablespoon(ish) sized cookie scoop. You could go a bit bigger, but they were a good size. Use whatever you have to create small ball of potato.
Get the balls ready to go before you start frying. We put them on an uncreased cookie sheet and had no problem with sticking.
The tricks to frying for those of you who don’t cook much are:
- Use a thermometer to make the oil is about 10 degrees higher than you need it before you start.
- Don’t oveload the oil/work in small batches.
- Adjust the burner to maintain as close to a constant temp as possible.
Pull them out when they are golden brown and put on a plate lined with paper towel or a pan with a rack.
These were really good. Super crunchy on the outside (and those little edge sticking out) while being creamy and smooth in the middle. Far superior to the frozen kind.
If you really want to emulate the shape of the frozen kind, roll them in your hand and use your thumbs to press on the ends. You can make a cylinder as if you were rolling sushi. (This tip came from Serious Eats, which I probably ought to have checked before bothering to jump in an re-create the wheel.)