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Cauliflower "Tater" Tots

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    Posted: 23 August 2016 at 05:48
Y’all know cauliflower. Prosaic, often insipid, cauliflower. Well, what you might not know is that among a large number of celebrity chefs and diet gurus, cauliflower has become the vegetable de jure.

This brings an ironic smile to those of us who have enjoyed it, in many forms, all our lives.

One of the big uses, nowadays, is as a replacement for potatoes. Cauliflower can be manipulated in man of the same ways, but is healthier. There’s that word, again. Just ignore the healthy aspects and focus on the flavorful ones, and you’ll be ready to give cauliflower a fair trial.

One application is to turn the cauliflower into a form of potato tots. This is something Ron and I have been discussing for a while, and I finally got around to trying it. Here’s the recipe I started with:

Cauliflower Tots
2 cups cauliflower florets, steamed
1 egg, lightly
½ cup shredded Cheddar
½ cup Parmesan
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup chives, chopped fine
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a large baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

In a food processor, pulse until grated. Put in a kitchen towel and squeeze to drain water.

Transfer cauliflower to a large bowl with the egg, cheeses, Panko and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon about one tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a tater-tot shape with your hands. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, until tots are golden.

You can follow this recipe exactly, and they’ll come out fine. But you know me. I never leave well enough alone.

First off, if you don’t have your own patch of chives, a quarter cup (in my case, a half cup, cuz I doubled the recipe) of store bought is a whole bunch. You could easily substitute one or two minced shallots.

Eyeballing the ingredients, I felt these would be heavily on the cheese side, with little in the way of seasoning. So, on a whim, I added a tablespoon of minced, fresh sage. Turned out to be a good guess on my side.

After steaming the florets (they should be just passed the al dente stage), drain them in a colander, then wrap in a towel. This is a lot easier than doing it after they’ve been grated. And they’ll work better in the processor, with no chance of becoming a gummy paste.

In my oven, they took 22 minutes to turn golden. But I made them using a 1 ½ tbls sized disher, so you want to start monitoring them at 15 minutes.

Taste testing one of them, I was satisfied with the recipe. But took it one step further. Because I had planned to serve these with pulled pork, I figured, what the heck. The smoker was running anyway. I laid them out on a pan, and put it on the top shelf of the smoker for half an hour, to reheat and absorb a light smoky flavor. Another good move, as it turns out.

The original recipe suggests serving these with spicy ketchup. Frankly, they don’t need any sort of saucing.

After making these, the wheels started turning. If you think of this as a technique, instead of a recipe, you can run all sorts of changes. Various herbs and spices would be an obvious modification. But you could play around with the cheeses, too. And, the simple fact is that any vegetable capable of being turned into a mash (which includes practically every root veggie) could be utilized, either alone or in combination with the cauliflower.

I’ve already planned my next attempt. I’ll be using parsnips as the base. Mixed in will be some caramelized red onion and a hint of fresh ginger. And I’ll substitute Raclette for the cheddar.





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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 August 2016 at 11:30
Awesome, thank you for the recipe and write-up! I'm not a huge fan of regular tater tots but my wife loves them. Maybe this would be a good compromise. 
Mike
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 August 2016 at 06:49
Know what you mean about tater tots, Mike. I like the initial crunch, but the texture of the inside is a bit off-putting to me.

The cauliflower tots are a whole nuther story, though. They're denser than regular tots, and have a better mouth feel, as well as great flavor.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 September 2016 at 09:54
Ya gotta love it when a plan comes together.

Although it’s been some time, I finally made these tots using parsnips. They came out incredibly well, if I say so myself.

I followed the same basic procedure, but the mixture consisted of:

2 cups cooked, mashed parsnips
½ cup grated Raclette cheese
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 medium red onion, sliced, caremalized, and chopped on the fine side
1 tbls ginger paste (or sub freshly grated gingerroot)
1 beaten egg
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
Salt & black pepper

For some reason these took a bit longer to brown up. In my oven it was 30 minutes. Your mileage may vary.

I’m more than ever convinced that just about any root vegetable would work, alone, or mixed with potatoes.

For my next experiment I’m going with Rutabaga. And maybe carrots after that.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 September 2016 at 14:03
Brook - I still need to try these. It looks like you've really gotten some great mileage out of the concept!

Hopefully, they will be sitting alongside a main course, soon -

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2016 at 19:10
One more time.

Just finished a batch of tots using rutabaga as the base.

This time I returned to the original cheeses; cheddar and Parmesan, and added some currants that were first plumped in Crème de Cassis. For flavorings I used ginger paste, a healthy pinch of cinnamon, and a tablespoon of maple sugar. And I added a glug of hot sauce to the eggs when I beat them.

So far, this is the best tasting of those I’ve tried.

Sweet potatoes, using the same flavorings, would be a sure winner, I’d bet.

Something I hadn’t mentioned before is that I turn these about halfway through the cook time. Otherwise they get too brown on the bottom, and barely colored on top. I suspect this is because they bottoms are frying in the oil film.

I’m thinking that a sheet of parchment paper, instead of greasing the pan, would solve that problem. Alternatively, a light spray of oil on the tops should cause them to brown more quickly.

Lots of room to experiment with that.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 September 2016 at 09:00
Those sound pretty good to me, Brook - I never would have thought of giving them an autumn twist, but reading your description sounds delicious.

Sweet potatoes, pumpkin and zucchini should work very well, I imagine, depending on the direction that one wants to push these.
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