There's a restaurant near my office that's popular for retirement lunches, celebrating project completions, and other office events. The food is primarily your typical pub stuff, but what I consider their standout item isn't even an entree: it's their sweet potato tots. But there's a catch. I don't know if they make them in-house or if sometimes their distributor just doesn't come through, but they're not always available. Maybe it's on purpose, because it just makes me want them that much more.
When I saw a recipe for homemade tater tots on Serious Eats, I was curious about the method, but not enough to make me want to dirty that many dishes and the food processor, and deal with deep-frying. Until I saw that one of the suggested variations was sweet potato tots.
They turned out great, and even better with some leftover smoky jalapeno-lime ranch dressing for dipping. And despite my fear of deep-frying, they weren't too difficult, they just took a lot of undivided attention. Regulating the oil temp was a little tricky for me, but that could easily be remedied by thinking ahead and frying smaller batches of sweet potato chunks and tots. They reheated well in the oven, crisping up nicely.
Homemade Sweet Potato Tots
What's in them:
1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1-2 qts peanut, vegetable, or canola oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 Tbsp cornstarch or potato starch
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
How to make them:
Place potatoes in a bowl of cold water and agitate for 10 seconds. Transfer to fine mesh strainer and allow to drain for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in large wok or Dutch oven over high heat to 350°F. Fry potatoes, stirring them with a wire spider until light golden brown and tender, about 4 minutes, adjusting flame to maintain oil temperature. Transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
Transfer 1/2 of the potatoes to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until broken down into rough 1/4 to 1/8th inch pieces, about eight 1-second pulses. Be careful not to over-process; the inside texture of the tots may end up on the gummy side. Transfer to a mixing bowl and repeat with the remaining potatoes.
Add salt, starch, sugar, grated onion, black pepper to taste, and any other flavoring to taste (cinnamon, cayenne, bacon, etc., I used about 2 tablespoons of grated onion). Gently mix with your hands to combine. Shape into cylinders about 3/4-inch wide and 1-inch long. Don't squish the mixture too much to keep the texture of the cooked tots fluffy.
Bring oil back to 350°F and add sweet potato tots in small batches, avoiding crowding the pan. Allow to fry for 1 minute, then gently agitate with a metal spider to separate them. Continue to cook, adjusting flame to maintain heat, until golden brown and crisp, about 3-4 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Serve hot, or reheat as needed in a 425°F oven.