MEATLESS MONDAY: Homemade Tater Tots!
When I was in middle school/high school, I always looked forward to the days that they served tater tots in the school cafeteria. I would get in line, get a double order of tots, a huge squeeze of ketchup and go to town. These little potato packages are something that remind me of the good ol’ days. Over the course of my life, I’d say I’ve had some pretty fantastic tater tots. It was the first appetizer I ordered when I first went to our favorite cocktail lounge, The Patterson House. I happily (and oftentimes) order them at The Grilled Cheeserie when they are around. But the best tater tots that I’ve ever had are from South Street in Midtown. I used to live on the same block as South Street and would go there all the time for a happy hour brew or on Sunday, in order to cure the effects of late Saturday night activities. Whenever I go, however, I never leave without having an order of tater tots.
Now, these are not your average tots. The first time I ordered them, I was perplexed. I actually thought they had given me a double order of hushpuppies. But then I bit into one. And it changed my life. I asked the waiter what they did to create such an incredible and amazing potato product. He said they took mashed potatoes, mixed them with cheese and onions, rolled them in breadcrumbs and deep fried them. DROOL!
So, a few days ago, I made mashed potatoes and had some leftover. As I was about to heat my mashed potatoes back up, I remembered the words of this waiter. He never gave me the exact recipe, so I improvised. No more reheated mash, I was gonna make some tater tots. I shredded some sharp pepper jack cheese, got some panko breadcrumbs and made my version of these tater tots. Once you try these, it’s hard to have tots any other way.
Homemade Tater Tots
(Recipe inspired by South Street Tater Tots)
1 recipe Perfect Mashed Potatoes cold, (the potatoes need to soak up all the moisture so you can form them into balls)
1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1 cup flour
2 whole eggs, beaten
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Roll your mashed potatoes into even sized balls. Set up a basic fry station – flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs – in 3 separate dishes. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Combine the beaten eggs with just a splash of milk and season with salt and pepper. Get the panko breadcrumbs and season them with the garlic powder, herbs, salt, and pepper.
Get a small deep fryer or a large pot with enough oil to fry at 375 degrees.
Roll your mashed potato balls in the flour. Shake off any excess, go straight into the eggs, and then into the breadcrumbs. Make sure the balls are completely coated in the breadcrumbs and put them on a plate until they are ready to fry.
Once all the balls are coated, lower5-6 into the oil and cook until nice and golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the tater tots from the fryer and continue frying everything else in batches until they are all done.
Serve these tots with the protein of your choice, or just as a snack! It’s a great thing to do when you have leftover mashed potatoes. But to be honest, I only make mashed potatoes, because I know there are tater tots in my future!