Sunday, November 16, 2008

Big Kid Bacon And Brie Tater Tots

F.Nephi Grigg was a high school dropout who raised potatoes and corn in Idaho. In the early 1920's when a bankrupt frozen food processing plant in southern Oregon was up for sale Griggs and his brother, Golden Grigg mortgaged their homes to get a down payment.

In 1951 the Griggs began producing French fries, a process that entailed shaving the potatoes into rectangular blocks before slicing them. The shavings were later sold for a pittance as livestock feed, according to a article in 2003. In 1953 in an effort to merchandize the scraps and maximize their profits, the shavings were ground, mixed with spices, extruded, and fried. The result became one of the most famous Ore-Ida® products-Tater Tots® shredded potatoes.

But not without a little more marketing genius from Griggs. He introduced his new product by bringing 15 pounds of Tater Tots to the National Potato Convention at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami later that year. There he bribed the convention's chef to serve up the nuggets. They were a sensation.

Tremont 647 in Boston MA menus a rosemary-scented fontina stuffed tater tots. (They also have a very cool interactive site worth checking out.)On the Fall menu Chef Andy Husband includes The Wood Grilled Flat Iron Steak basil braised fennel, seared raab, and rosemary-scented fontina stuffed tater tots.

Michael Richards has a recipe in his James Beard Award-winning cookbook "Happy in the Kitchen" (Artisan, $45) — an homage called Spuddies — binds potato cubes with gelatin, which melts when fried.

So Richard abandoned that technique for a better one that, in fact, echoes the industrial process perfected by Grigg a half-century earlier. He barely steams Yellow Finn potato cubes, then packs them into a mold to cool, letting the expressed potato starch do the binding. He cuts the chilled mixture into bites and fries them twice — once at a moderate temperature to cook them through and then again at a high temperature to crisp the outsides. Creamier, crisper.

Makes 10-12

1 large baking potato
Vegetable oil as needed for frying
1 oz potato starch
1 egg
¼ cup minced shallots
1 tbsp minced chives
4 oz cooked crumbled bacon
4 oz Brie

Lightly coat the potato in oil, season with salt and pepper, pierce it a few times with a fork and bake at 350 degrees until three-quarters cooked, approximately 40 minutes. Remove potato and let it cool to room temperature. Peel and box-grate the potato. In a medium bowl, combine the grated potato, starch, egg, shallots, chives and salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, thoroughly incorporate the chopped bacon and Brie. Fill a one-ounce ring mold halfway with the potato mixture, then place a small scoop of the cheese and bacon mixture in the center and top with more potato. Press down to firmly compact the potato and unmold. Fill a heavy skillet with enough vegetable oil to cover the tots. Heat oil at medium high, approximately 325 degrees, add tots and cook until golden brown (or use a deep fryer following manufacturer’s instructions).

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