"You are what you eat, and I'm probably a potato." I'm quoting a friend of mine, but honestly, that sounds about right for me, too. There are all sorts of varieties, but perhaps my favorite potato is one that is shaped like a tater tot. Kids love tots, but I know lots of grownups like myself who cannot pass them up on a menu. And these puffy cylinders don't have to just be vessels for dipping sauce. Here are five other ways to use a bag of your favorite frozen potato puffs.
Brittany Volk, Times staff writer
Tater Tot Hotdish
If this list did not have a hotdish recipe on it, I'd probably be disowned by my Minnesota family. This casserole is about as common on a Midwestern table as fluff salad. To make, heat an oven to 350 degrees. Add 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 finely chopped yellow onion to the skillet and cook until soft and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Add 1 pound lean ground beef to the onions and cook until the meat is brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the beef and onion mixture from the skillet into a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Scatter 2 cups each cooked green beans and corn evenly on top. Spread 2 (10-ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup over top and top with 1 pound frozen tots. Bake uncovered for 1 hour, until the taters are golden brown. Recipe adapted from cookingchannel.com.
Nachos are a table-pleaser, so why not trade chips for tots? This "totcho" recipe is inspired by Spanish patatas bravas, and these will be gone by the time you set down the plate. Bake a bag of frozen tots according to package directions. Remove pan from the oven and season tots with a pinch or two of salt. Meanwhile, for the sauce, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 chopped yellow onion and 1 clove minced garlic; cook for a few minutes. Add 8 ounces Mexican chorizo; cook, stirring occasionally and breaking it up, until cooked through. Add 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika and 1 tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce, stirring to combine. Allow the sauce to simmer for a few more minutes before removing from heat. Taste the sauce; season with salt, if desired. Arrange the hot tots on a plate; messily drizzle the spicy tomato sauce mixture over the tots. Top with dollops of mayo or sour cream and parsley, if desired. Recipe from the Chicago Tribune.
Tater Tot Skewers
Tots make great party food. Kids and adults will be grabbing for these skewers, so you'll want to make a lot. Defrost a 1-pound bag of frozen tots. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet. With a skewer, pierce one end of a strip of uncooked bacon. Pierce and place a tot on top of the bacon, then pierce the same strip of bacon again to form a weave. Repeat with two to three more tots, depending on the size of your skewers. Repeat to finish as many skewers as you desire. Place on wire rack and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until bacon is cooked through. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese over the cooked skewers and return to oven, baking until the cheese has melted, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Garnish with chopped fresh chives and serve with ranch dressing, for dipping. Recipe from delish.com.
Loaded Baked Tater Tot Dip
Take your favorite baked potato toppings and make this personalized party-pleaser. I've picked my favorites, but also list some swaps within the recipe if you want to change things up for your taste buds. Start by heating the oven to 375 degrees and spraying a 9-inch pie dish or similar oven-safe baking dish with cooking spray. Slice 3 cups thawed tots in half and transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Add 1 cup crumbled cooked bacon (or shredded chicken, crumbled meatballs or sausage), 16 ounces sour cream, 1 cup shredded cheddar Jack cheese (or any combination you like, such as cheddar, colby, mozzarella or Monterey Jack), 2 teaspoons all-purpose seasoning blend (Lowry's, Trader Joe's 21 Salute, Mrs. Dash or a pinch of garlic or onion powder), salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula. Top with 1 more cup of the shredded cheese. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until top is bubbly and golden browned. Serve immediately with crackers, bread, pita or tortilla chips, or just eat it with a spoon. Recipe adapted from averiecooks.com.
Mac and Cheese Tater Tots
Life is short, so you know what, let's forget about calories right now. A Huffington Post commenter suggested this delicious monstrosity when the website made a list of the best macaroni and cheese recipes. Why didn't we think of this before? Plus, it's just as easy as it sounds. Make your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe, then scoop it into a baking dish. On a separate baking sheet, bake a bag of frozen tots according to package directions. Layer them on top of the mac and cheese and sprinkle with some cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is meltes melted, about 3 minutes. Recipe from cookpad.com.