LC Michel Richard's Balls Note
The latest restaurant concept from French chef–and college frat-brother-like character–Michel Richard? Balls. As in Meatballs, his recent love child launched in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Though the restaurant has since closed, Richard reveled in taking the concept quite literally, dishing out sides that follow the same format as the namesake–as well as his jolly round self. Witness Tater Tot™-like orbs usurping the stereotypical squashed square shape. You could try the same with the recipe below, saving yourself a little trouble and just forming potato balls. Or you could remain true to their traditional format. The choice is yours.
As with many dishes from creative types such as Richard, this recipe is a revelation in culinary technique. Yes, there are less arduous approaches to making homemade tater tots, most of them relying on just parboiled potatoes that are grated, tossed with cornstarch or flour and salt, and fried in little blobs in hot oil. This more complex recipe may try the patience of those (sadly) accustomed to ripping open bags of freezer-burnt potatoes and nuking them. Just saying….
Homemade Tater Tots
- Quick Glance
- Quick Glance
- 45 M
- 1 H, 50 M
- Makes about 20 pieces
Preheat the oven to 250°F (121°C). Position a rack in the center of the oven.
Peel and rinse the potatoes. Cut each potato lengthwise in half and then lengthwise in half again to make 4 wedges. Cut each wedge crosswise into 4 pieces. Place the potato chunks in a food processor with the cold water and pulse until the potato chunks are about a 1/4 inch or so. They don’t need to be totally consistent in size, but do be careful not to overprocess them.
Dump the potatoes in a colander and rinse them under cold running water, shaking the strainer to remove as much water as possible, then spread the potatoes on a towel. Cut any rebellious potatoes that are larger than a 1/4 inch into smaller chunks. Place another towel on top and then roll the towels up tightly to remove all excess moisture from the potatoes.
Spread the potatoes in an even layer on a baking sheet. Place the gelatin in a small dry sieve or tea strainer and sprinkle it evenly over the potatoes. Place the potatoes in the oven until the gelatin has melted, 4 to 5 minutes. The potatoes will appear oily because of the gelatin; this is okay. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and mix well with a rubber spatula to evenly distribute the gelatin. Mix in the flour and salt to taste.
Lightly rub your work surface with water, then place a piece of plastic wrap at least 18 inches long on the work surface with the short end toward you. The water will anchor the plastic to the counter. Place half the potato mixture on the plastic, about 6 inches from the edge closest to you, and use your hands to shape it into a log approximately 8 inches long, pressing the potatoes to hold them together. Lift the edge of the plastic wrap closest to you up and over the log, bringing it down on the far side of the potato mixture. Roll it into a compact log, using the ruler or the back of a chef’s knife to push against the roll as you compress it. If necessary, squeeze the plastic at the ends to compact the mixture as you roll. The finished log should be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Twist the ends of the plastic and tie them tightly with kitchen twine. If there are any air spaces in the potatoes that are visible through the plastic, prick a small hole in the plastic to release the air. Repeat with the remaining potatoes to make a second log.
Place the logs in the freezer just until firm enough to slice, 30 to 60 minutes. Do not freeze the potatoes for longer or they may turn brown.
For the first frying, heat the oil in a deep fryer or heavy pot to 375°F (190°C). Remove the logs from the freezer. Cut off the ends of the rolls, slicing through the plastic, then cut each roll, right through the plastic, into 3/4-inch-thick slices, about 10 per roll. Remove and discard the plastic. Fry the spuddies in small batches until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate or tray.
For the second frying, reduce the oil temperature to 325°F (163°C). Fry the potatoes, again in batches, for about 2 minutes, until richly browned and crisp. Drain the potatoes on paper towels, and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Watch them disappear. [To freeze the spuddies, just cook them for a minute less than directed in the second frying, then plonk the cooked potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet and transfer to the freezer. Once the spuddies are frozen, transfer to resealable plastic freezer bags. To serve, spread the frozen potatoes on a baking sheet to defrost at room temperature. Warm in a 400°F (204°C) oven until hot and crisp, 5 to 8 minutes.]
Recipe Testers Reviews
There isn’t a better potato snack in the world than a frozen and reheated tater tot—unless you can make them from scratch at home. These were the best potato nuggets I’ve ever had. They were crisp on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside. Such a treat. You could serve these with chili and cheese on top, but why would you want to? They’re incredible on their own. I don’t think I can ever go back to a store-bought tater tots again. While rolling the potato mixture, I became a bit frustrated because my logs had an air pocket or two in them. But this wasn’t a problem. Just place them in the freezer, and they’ll come out firm.
I’ve never been disappointed with a recipe from this book, and these tater tots are no exception. They really are a bit labor intensive, but lots of prep can be done ahead of time. The end result is really cool and a tasty crunchy treat that everyone enjoys, kids and adults alike. I love serving them with a couple of different dips, but of course they work great with ketchup.
I have to admit that I was taken aback a bit by the length of the recipe; however, once you get going on it, it isn’t that bad. Michel Richard does a great job of describing the method. You really can’t make a mistake if you follow his directions. I made these with the 1/4 teaspoon of ground coriander, but the flavor wasn’t noticeable at all so next time I’d just leave the tater tots as is with salt and pepper. I found it easier to roll the tots when I divided it into 4 rather than 2 logs as suggested. The rolling took a bit of practice, but after the first one it went fairly smoothly. Really fascinating to see the frozen tater tots turn into a crunchy outside–moist inside potato delight. The fleur de sel is a must at the finish. Served these as a side dish with steak, but could easily see the attraction of serving these as an appetizer at a cocktail party. Even tried them dipped in ketchup—fantastic!