Yes, I'm sure all my American friends knew this, but Iris just got in there first. Here in the UK we can't get tater tots, which is a bit sad, really. Waitrose make some nice frozen Rosti which are similar in texture but rounder and flatter in shape. I guess the closest thing to Tater Tots here in the GB are the hash brown patties you get at Mickey D's for brekky. But I just thought it was time to make it easier for the Yanks for once.
Tater Tots is actually a registered trademark for a commercial form of hash browns made by Ore-Ida (betcha didn't know that). They are a side-dish made from deep-fried, grated potatoes. Tater Tots are widely recognized by their crispiness, cylindrical shape and small size.
Tater Tots are commonly found in the U.S. in cafeterias and school lunch-counters, as well as the supermarket frozen food aisle and some fast food restaurants. Safeway Inc. has a generic brand called "Tater Treats". The Sonic Drive-In franchise also features "Tater Tots" as a regular menu item, with the option of cheese, chili, or both as toppings; tots with cheese are branded "Cheesy Tots". Cheesy Tots are coin-shaped and, as implied by the name, contain melted cheese as well as potatoes. Several restaurants in the Pacific Northwest offer a nacho version of tots ("totchos"), covered in nacho cheese sauce and toppings.
Some Mexican-style fast-food restaurants offer seasoned tater tots: Taco Time and Señor Frog's call them "Mexi-Fries", while Taco Bell used to sell them as "Mexi-Nuggets". Taco Mayo in the southwest offers round disc-shaped tater tots called "Potato Locos." Taco John's also has coin shaped tots called “Potato Olés”. In some areas of the Northeast USA, however, they are often called "juliennes" or "potato puffs."
In Australia, they are known as "potato gems" or "potato pom-poms" (also used in New Zealand). In the UK, Ross Frozen Foods once produced "oven crunchies" which are no longer available. In Canada McCain Foods Limited calls their line of tater tots Tasti Taters. Cascadian Farm calls their line of tater tots Spud Puppies.
Tater is slang for potato; Tots may have been derived from their diminutive size, or because they are often served to children. In some regions, the term Tater is informally dropped, and the snack is simply called "Tots". Whatever. All I know is they are just scrumptious. Perfect one-bite satisfaction. Mm mm mm.
One of the greatest things ever invented is the sublime Tater Tot casserole. For this all you need is a bag of tater tots, a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup (I've also used cream of celery before with great success), a bag of frozen mixed veg (or veg of your choice - hell, why not use asparagus tips?), a bunch of shredded cheese (the tangier the better), a dab of milk or sour cream and usually some browned ground beef, but since I'm now vegetarian I'd either omit the beef altogether, or substitute veggie mince (Quorn or Linda McCartney do a fine substitute), a splosh of soy sauce to give it a kick, and a casserole dish. Some people like to mix everything up together except the tater tots, put it in the casserole dish and layer the tots on top. Me - I like to just mix the whole shebang together. Hey, it all goes down the same way, right?
Bung it in the casserole dish, chuck it in the oven at 200C/375F for as long as it takes for the mixture to get hot and bubbly, and serve. Yum. Total comfort food.
Alright then. Another puzzle for you...
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