I didn’t taste a tater tot until I was ten years old. Growing up in France, we had our own version of tater tots, called pommes dauphines, and their smaller cousin, pommes noisettes. Pommes dauphines are a combination of puff pastry and mashed potatoes that transforms into light little balls of potato goodness when deep fried.
As a kid, I loved the commercial frozen kind that we bought at the supermarket. They had a crunchy coating that was reliably the same side and yielded to a pleasant tender center. The bland and slightly chemical aftertaste was comforting to my young palate, but made my father very nervous that I would have pedestrian tastes for the rest of my life.
I still love pommes dauphines, or Fancy French tater tots as a friend once called them, but no longer the frozen kind. I love the real deal, the easily homemade kind. Once you bite into one of these hot potato clouds, you’ll be hooked too. I love to serve them with a nice steak or a roast chicken – they’re just the thing to soak up the juices.
My kids love these too, and whenever we travel to France, I make sure to keep them far away from the frozen kind. As far as they’re concerned, the homemade pommes dauphines are the real deal. Next we’ll have to make homemade tater tots to see if we can improve on the supermarket freezer case staple.
6 TBSPs unsalted butter, cut into small dice
1 cup water
1 TSP salt
1 cup all purpose plain flour
3 cups of thin mashed potatoes with no lumps
Make the puff pastry dough:
- In a saucepan combine the butter, water and salt.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often, and remove from the heat.
- Immediately pour in the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth mixture. Put the pan back on gentle heat and continue to stir until there are no lumps and the mixture pulls away from the pan sides, 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. This is the hard part of the recipe and your arms will get pretty tired. The trick is to do it very quickly and to not let the egg touch the hot pan sides or it will cook. Sometimes the egg gets a little scrambled looking with the first few, don’t worry too much about this. The dough will even out, and at the end of the day, all will end up deep fried and pretty homey looking.
- Mix in the mashed potatoes to thoroughly blend them in with a wooden spoon. Why the emphasis on wooden spoons? They just seem like the thing to use when making the food of my youth.
Form the pommes dauphine balls:
- Liberally dust with flour two cookie sheets.
- The dough is now ready to be used. It can be formed by spoonfuls or with a pastry bag fitted with a large tip. You can even put it in a large ziploc bag with a corner cut out of it. Spoon or pipe the dough onto the cookie sheets. Gently roll the dough balls to coat with flour.
Fry the pommes dauphine:
- Heat the oil. Make sure it is hot enough by testing with a bread crumb. If the bread crumb makes a nice sizzles and browns – then you are ready to FRY.
- Fry the balls until they are nice and brown. Then remove and place on plate covered with paper towels.
- Eat when hot.
- Although these are best eaten immediately, they’re also pretty good the next day reheated for a few seconds in the microwave.