Tater tot salad battle!September 11, 2006
Just to throw off any regular readers we might have… my husband is going to start off the commentary on this post (so, no, I’m not referring to myself in the third person):
My wife and I went to the wedding of a very dear friend not long ago. On the day we were returning home, we were sitting in a restaurant discussing food with our friends. This was a barbeque joint, so the topic was not haute cuisine or even the fancy places we had gone recently for my birthday. Instead, the discussion settled on my wife’s secret obsession — tater tots. (Wife: It’s not a secret. I’ll shout my love for tater tots from the hills, thank you very much.)
I say obsession because it’s not an unusual occurrence over the years for my wife to turn to me and say, “You know… I could really go for some tater tots right now.” I like them, but I could say that until this project, I had never bought them in my entire life. So most of her requests were met with me rolling my eyes.
Therefore, when the discussion of tater tots reached a glowing stage at the restaurant, I was rather amused. I can’t remember who said it first, but the words “someone should invent tater tot salad….” were uttered. My wife and I looked at each other and agreed. We would heed that call.
The story now turns a corner. My wife decided to change it up: “I” won’t invent the tater tot salad, “she” won’t invent tater tot salad, and “we” won’t invent tater tot salad. No, we would enter into an Iron Chef style death match! We were quickly off honing our thoughts and ideas.
The results are hers to describe, but let’s just say that her tater tot salad was awesome. If she says anything otherwise, she’s being overly modest. Also, these recipes are dedicated to our good friends Toby, Andrea and Mark for their truly inspiring idea.
I can’t let a post go by about something deemed my “obsession” without also commenting. To put it bluntly: Tater tots are freakin’ awesome. Everyone thinks so at one stage or another in their lives — that’s why it’s so unfortunate that after a certain age, you just don’t get served them any more. If you’re past the point where you carry your lunch on a tray — tater tots balanced precariously with a half pint of whole milk — you probably haven’t had sufficient tater-tottage in decades.
But fear not, intrepid and would-be tater-tot consumers. You can find them in the freezer section in a variety of flavors and at least two sizes (mini and regular). And you don’t even need to fry them, man. Just put ’em in the oven and they get plenty crispy and alluring.
But they’re not healthy, you protest. OK, maybe not. That’s why we’ve invented tater tot salad. Salad, by definition, is healthy — even if it’s augmented with bacon, thousand island dressing, and tater tots. Which mine was.
And while you might think that the above audacious combo would have won me the Iron Chef tater-tot cookoff we staged — alas, it did not. My husband, despite his modesty, had by far the superior tater tot salad. Mostly because of his spicy and delicious purple cabbage slaw. It had a wonderful bite from the fresh mustard and lime juice, and this amazing aroma from the cumin he dashed in it. But the coup de grace was definitely the tater tots, dripping with a ketchup-honey-relish sauce. The combination of biting, spicy and sweet combined with the warm crispy goodness of fresh tots — it’s heaven, I tell you. Read on. (And if you have other ideas for tater tot salad, submit. I’ll eat them.)
2 dozen tater tots
1/4 large head red cabbage
1/2 cup carrots (shredded)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. brown mustard
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. sweet pickle relish
1 tsp. light brown sugar
Fresh ground pepper
1. Shred the cabbage and carrots, and place in a colander. Lightly salt and let drain for approximately 30 min.
2. In a bowl, mix the salad dressing ingredients. Once fully mixed, and once the cabbage-carrot mix has drained, incorporate the two in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
3. In a small bowl, incorporate the ketchup, honey, relish and light brown sugar. Add pepper to taste. Cover until you are ready to serve.
4. Make tatter tots. I’d love to say something clever, but really read the fine bag you have. Make them nice and crispy. Try not to eat them before you get them on the salad.
5. Place about a 1/2 cup of the salad mixture on the plate. Top it with approximately 5-7 tater tots. Drizzle the topping sauce over the tater tots and a little on the sides for extra. (Note: I made mine fancy using a ring mold. However, you do not need to do that at all. A nice pile and some tater tots works wonders. I was out to win the battle so I pulled out cheap show tricks.)
6. Serve while tater tots are still hot. Enjoy!
Wife’s Tater Tot Salad
16 tater tots
4 slices bacon
1 head iceberg lettuce
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1 tbsp. fresh chopped chives
2 tbsp. fat-free thousand island dressing
2 tsp. sunflower seed kernels
1. Fry the bacon until crispy. Place on a paper towel and let drain. Once cool, chop the bacon into smaller bite-sized pieces.
2. Reserve 4 of the large outer leaves from the head of lettuce. Rinse them and pat them dry.
3. Take 4-5 interior leaves and shredded them along with a quick chop of the chives.
4. In a large bowl, mix the shredded lettuce, carrots, chives, sunflower seeds, bacon and thousand island dressing.
5. Using the reserve lettuce leaves as taco or burrito shell, layer a nice heap (yes, a technical term) of the lettuce-carrot mixture and then place on top 4-5 tater tots on top. Fold. Serve. Enjoy!