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Published August 23 2012

Benshoof: I’m no hater of tater tots

Potatoes are pretty hot these days.

Earlier this week, the vegetable was in the news due to the disheartening cancellation of the 2012 Lobster and Lefse Festival.

But, any dashed spirits I had from that announcement were quickly rekindled thanks to this weekend’s Potato Days in Barnesville, which includes activities such as the 2012 Miss Tator Tot Pageant, a lefse cook-off and so much more.

With all this potato-related activity, I got to thinking – most of us know how lefse is made (it’s probably safe to say we’ve learned that from our respective grandmothers at one point or another), but where, exactly, do tater tots come from (aside from the freezer section of the grocery store)?

Well, according to a CNN report, tater tots first appeared in 1953, when Ore-Ida founder F. Nephi Griggs took potato scraps left over from French fries and ground them, mixed them with flour and spices and then fried them. Voila.

So if it wasn’t for Griggs, I never would’ve eaten tater tot hotdish, one of my favorite meals. And that’s a life I just don’t want to imagine.

But following Griggs’ example and making your own tater tots from scratch looks to be a little bit more difficult than making your own lefse (not to say that’s particularly easy, either).

To find out more, I reached out to Lucky’s 13 Pub in Fargo, which serves some pretty delicious homemade tater tots, to see if they could give me any tips.

Turns out their chefs are a little hesitant to share company secrets with some young, gum-shoed journalist. Which is understandable – some (tasty) things you just can’t give away for free.

So instead I turned to an old friend of mine: the Internet.

There are various step-by-step recipes and different takes on tots out there, but the gist is this: Heat and peel some potatoes, and then shred them in a food processor into small chunks.

After squeezing out the excess liquid from the potatoes (an important step,) mix the chunks with a little flour, garlic, salt and pepper (and anything else you desire – go crazy!).

Heat some oil in a pan, and then form the potato mixture into the cylindrical shape of a tater tot. Fry them in the oil until golden brown (four or five minutes is enough, the recipes say), drain, cool and enjoy.

So even though the recipe might seem like no small potatoes for cooks without much talent (like myself), as the creator of tots himself once said, “Bite off more than you can chew and then chew it.”

Makes “tots” of sense to me.

If you go

What: Barnesville Potato Days

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: Barnesville, Minn.

Info: Visit www.potatodays.com for more information and a full schedule of events


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535