Monday, October 26, 2015

One of America's Favorites - Tater Tots

A plate of Tater Tots.
A tater tot is a side dish made from deep-fried, grated potatoes. They are widely recognized by their
crispness, cylindrical shape, and small size. Tater Tots is a registered trademark of Ore-Ida (a division of the H. J. Heinz Company), which has become genericized.

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. Today, Americans consume approximately 70 million pounds of tater tots per year.

When the tater tot product was first produced, there was no name for them. The owners of Ore-Ida decided to hold a contest among the employees that would help determine the product name. Clora Lay Orton, then a young house mother, submitted the name "tater tots". The name was a hit and she won the contest.

In the United States, tater tots are common at school-lunch counters and cafeterias. They are also sold
In the Midwest Tater Tot Hotdish is a soup-based casserole 
in the frozen food sections of grocery stores. Some fast-food restaurants also offer them.

The supermarket chain Safeway Inc. sells a generic brand of tater tots known as "Tater Treats". Sonic drive-in also features tater tots on their regular menu; available toppings include cheese and chili. Sonic also sells "Cheesy Tots", coin-shaped tots that contain melted cheese and 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.

In 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".

Here's a recipe for Tater Tots that my Mom uses.

Homemade Potater Tots

2 russet potatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives (optional)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
vegetable oil for frying

1 -Place the potatoes in a saucepan of water to cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through but still firm, about 20 minutes. Remove from the water, and peel the cooked potatoes while still hot.
2 - Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
3 - Shred the potatoes with a box grater, and place the shredded potatoes in a bowl. Lightly mix in the chives, salt, and white pepper. Spoon the potato mixture into a piping bag with a 1/2-inch round tip.
4 - Pipe the potato mixture onto the parchment paper in a long, 1/2-inch wide rope. Place the baking sheet into the refrigerator until the potato mixture has cooled and set, about 1 hour. Cut the potato strip into 1-inch lengths.
5 - Heat vegetable oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Working in batches, deep-fry the potato pieces until crisp and golden brown.

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