Croquet Potatoes

This article is dedicated to Steve K., who has gone out of his way on a number of occasions over the years to assure some of us that we would have tater tots for certain events.

I have witnessed Steve and Wink sitting at a bar polishing off dozens of the crispy-coated potatoes talking about the old days when they would go to the same restaurant in the Bay Area specifically for tater tots. They didn’t even know each other back then, but it did somehow create this weird tater-tot bond. Since I do consider Steve to be the tater tot king, I thought it fitting that he should have a recipe for one version of the tater tot.

Croquet potatoes are a version of the tater tot.

Potatoes come in all sizes and shapes. Various potatoes have a wide range of starch levels and different potatoes are used for different preparations. My personal favorite potato is the red potato and I will often substitute it if a recipe calls for another type of potato.

One of the best parts of cooking is that there are no rules and you can, most of the time, substitute what you like best. For this recipe, the red potato will come out a little heavier than a russet, so I take turns. You can decide for yourself what you want to use.

There are dozens of ways to prepare potatoes. Some potatoes might have a fancy name and in reality be similar to another one, but with one added ingredient or a different shape. For example, the rissole potato is merely a red potato that has been cut in the shape of a seven-sided football, sautéed to a golden brown and finished in the oven. The end result is not far from a roasted or sautéed potato. There’s paprika, Biarritz and sweet dutches potatoes to name a few preparations. A potato fanatic could have a different style every day for weeks without having the same one twice.

As I stated at the beginning of the article, croquet potatoes are a version of the tater tot. The potatoes are peeled, cut into wedges, seasoned with a little salt and pepper and then steamed until done. Once steamed, the potatoes should be put through a press.

Since most people do not have a press — which is what they use to make French fries — you can use a masher. The masher with the square holes is the best, but the other styles will work. Be careful not to mash the potatoes. You want to just push down once to break up the potato.

If you mash too much, they will be too starchy or gluey. There should be some air in them still.

Croquet Potatoes
6 potatoes, peeled & wedged
3 egg yolks
Salt, pepper & nutmeg to taste
½ C instant mashed potatoes (enough to thicken the mix)
Cornmeal for rolling pieces in
Flour to dust pieces

Peel and wedge the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and steam until done. Lightly mash the potatoes enough to break them apart. Do not over mash or whip them. Gently fold in the yolks, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Thicken with a little instant mashed potatoes if they are too runny to roll out. Again, do not over work the mix when incorporating all the ingredients.

Sprinkle some instant mashed potatoes on the table to keep the mix from sticking and roll the potatoes into a roll about 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Slice the rolls into pieces about 1 to 2 inches long, sprinkle with corn meal and dust with a little flour. Sauté the pieces until golden brown and finish cooking in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

If you want to vary this a little, you can add sliced almonds or anything else you would like and enjoy.


Chef Smitty

Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.