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Simple homemade tater tots

Fresh tater tots
Fresh tater tots
Adam Baffoni

When it comes to cooking seasonally, the most valuable recipes are the ones that never go out of season. Meals that utilize preserved ingredients such as flour to make fresh pasta, or year-round vegetables such as hearty greens or potatoes.

Tater tots are an American classic; a time capsule of early American culture, showing us a time when the nation was young and still branding its cuisine. You may, of course, know the tot only in its least delicious form: frozen, microwaved and served from under a heat lamp in a school cafeteria.

It's unfortunate that when many people think of the tater tot, the first thing that comes to mind are those processed, petrified pebbles of stale starch, completely unrecognizable as having come from any known vegetable. It doesn't have to be that way, though. All you need to make your own tots that will out-shine anything you've ever had out of a frozen bag are a few potatoes, flour and some salt and pepper.

Start by peeling five russet potatoes and dropping them into well salted, boiling water. You want to cook your potatoes until they are just getting tender, but not mushy or they'll turn into mashed potatoes, and that's not what we're looking for.

When your potatoes are done, shred them through a cheese grater. If you have a food processor, it probably has an attachment that shreds, and that can save you some time. If your potatoes have cooked properly, the shreds of potato should stay together and not turn to mush.

In a bowl, season your potato well with salt and pepper and mix in one egg that has been beaten. The egg will help to hold everything together when they are finished. Preheat an oven to 500 degrees and brush the bottom of a large casserole dish with oil.

Using a tablespoon as a guide for size, scoop out a portion of your potato and roll it into a ball between your hands. Roll that in flour and put it into your casserole dish. Repeat this until all of your potato has been portioned into balls. Brush the top of each tot with more oil and put them in the oven.

Once the flour on the outside of your tots has turned into a golden-brown crust, remove them from the oven and transfer them to a serving plate. They're best eaten fresh out of the oven, but can be reheated in the toaster oven. I like to serve mine with home-made mayo and sriracha, but the possibilities are endless.

In the winter months, it's refreshing to add some other root vegetables to the mix, such as parsnips or celery root. With this simple technique, you can satisfy the kid in all of us without going anywhere near the frozen food isle of your supermarket.