As I prepared for Friendsgiving last month, I opened my cookbook to a page that I had tabbed months ago. Looking over the innovative recipe for stuffing and making my grocery list, I had a thought:
What’s so special about this cookbook you ask? It’s a cookbook filled with recipes that center around tater tots. That’s right, I said tater tots. I have always been a big fan of tots. They’re potatoes in their most fun—and, as it turns out—most versatile, form.
When given the option at a restaurant, I will often opt for tots over fries or breakfast potatoes. Why? Because unlike fries, which are uniform and pedestrian, tots have a special panache. Their cylindrical shape packs a soft, potatoey wallop while the outside gets nice and crisp.
My first foray into the decadent capabilities of tots was when I had tot nachos, or “totchos,” at a baseball stadium in St. Louis. They were smothered in liquid cheese and topped with pico de gallo, green onions, and jalapeños. They were… incredible. Who knew you could reinvent the nacho so perfectly and satisfyingly!
So given my enthusiasm for this food, it’s no surprise that when Christmas rolled around last year, my parents knew exactly what to get me—the aforementioned tot cookbook. This cookbook is filled with 50 tot-centric recipes. It has everything from totchos to salted caramel tot cookies. Some of the recipes are simple, like mixing tots with herbs and spices to give them added flavor, or pairing them with a dipping sauce. Some, however, are more complicated.
I’m making real dishes, not just modified tater tots. Any gathering is an excuse to break out the cookbook and eat tots in an unexpectedly classy way. I love the challenge of finding the perfect recipe to fit the occasion. I love the excitement from my friends when I announce the tot-tastic recipe. And I love eating and sharing some fabulous, decadent tots that I slaved over with love.
Theme: Traditional game day snacks
New trick: Pico de gallo
This recipe was an instant classic. I fried the tots in vegetable oil to get them crispy. Then put them in a cast iron skillet and topped them with cheese that melted onto them and then topped that with jalepeños and homemade guac and pico de gallo.
New trick: Aioli and tomato sauce
These tots were once again fried in vegetable oil and then topped with homemade tomato sauce and aioli—my crown jewel. This was a lot of work, but the payoff was unreal. The flavor was appropriately decadent for the Oscars, and the contrast of the red tomato sauce and yellow aioli was—pardon the pun—award-winning.
Occasion: St. Patrick’s Day
Theme: It’s not easy being green
Tots: This recipe was another instant classic that I plan to make again soon. It’s a classic, baked spinach dip with cream cheese but instead of usual artichokes, it’s filled with tots. It’s the most fun dip you could imagine.
Theme: Sunday Brunch
New trick: Carmelizing onions
Not to toot my own horn, but if there’s one thing I can make the hell out of, it’s a quiche. So when I found this recipe, it was just a matter of matching it with the right occasion. This quiche was a fun twist on my usual recipe with more elaborate ingredients. Instead of the pie crust, you smash up defrosted tots to form the crust, and then fill it with crisped bacon, spinach and caramelized onions, baked together inside the egg mixture. Yes, I will cater your next brunch.
Occasion: Movie Night
Theme: Perfect match for the Bob’s Burgers ‘Hummus a Tune’ Burger
One of my friends has their own iconic cookbook filled with Bob’s Burgers burgers. While she made the amazing, Mediterranean influenced burger, my task was to make an appropriate side. I went with something simple—frying the tots and then mixing them with finely chopped chives and grated garlic. The results were perfect. I also made a lemony feta dip to go with them. Not from the tot cookbook, but the tots paired very well with it.
Occasion: Halloween Movie Night
Theme: Easy finger food
You know, latkes but tots! This recipe was extremely simple, but time consuming. The tots were placed in the frying pan and then smushed with a spatula to flatten them so they really crisp up. This could only be accomplished in batches of about five. They were delicious though. Easy to pop in your mouth and extremely crispy. I also made a simple chive and garlic greek yogurt topping for them.
New Trick: Stuffing itself, it’s an art form
This is probably my favorite dish that I’ve made from the cookbook because it was so perfect for the occasion and stuffing is my favorite Thanksgiving side. The tots were baked with celery, onion, sausage, and—what turned out to be the secret ingredient—instant mashed potatoes. In lieu of milk or butter, it made the dish unexpectedly creamy, and with the heft of the sausage and the crisp depth of the tots, this really made for the perfect Friendsgiving dish, like stuffing and mashed potatoes made a baby.
And it was this recipe that made me think this gimmicky tot cookbook may be the best gift I have ever received. It’s definitely at least the best gift I’ve ever shared with my friends. to
So, is your mouth watering yet? Next up on my radar are the Salted Caramel Tot Cookies I mentioned early. Come over, I’ll feed you.