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Every tot loves a dip

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  • Home-made tator-tots with dipping sauce. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

    Home-made tator-tots with dipping sauce. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

  • Home-made Potato Tots with spicy dipping sauce.

    Home-made Potato Tots with spicy dipping sauce.

  • Home-made tator-tots with dipping sauce. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)
  • Home-made Potato Tots with spicy dipping sauce.

Whether you make the from-scratch potato tots, or rely on tried-and-true Tater Tot originals, ketchup is often the condiment of choice. Want something more? How about a cheesy dip? Or a spicy chipotle mayonnaise? Or a quick soy-based sauce?

Classic roots: Before you dismiss Tater Tots and its ilk as another example of mid-20th century American food tinkering, consider where tots may actually come from. Asked in an email if there was a classic culinary antecedent for tots, the French-born and trained Jacques Pepin replied quickly in the affirmative.

“Certainly potato croquettes (riced cooked potato and egg yolk shaped like corks, balls or disks, breaded and fried) or potato duchesse (the same but no breading and baked) are the ancestors,” wrote Pepin. He pointed curious cooks to “The “Fannie Farmer Cookbook” and other classics for recipes.

Where is the tater nation? Ore-Ida’s iconic Tater Tots are sold across North America, of course, but where are those little treats most popular? The west north central parts of the United States, according to Max Wetzel, associate marketing director for Ore-Ida. That means Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Wetzel theorizes this is due to the popularity of comfort foods in the region, including Tater Tot hot dish.

Chile Con Queso

Makes 2 cups

Melt 1 pound processed cheese (cut into 1-inch cubes) in a slow cooker or double boiler. Stir in 1 can (10 ounces) tomatoes with green chiles. Serve warm.

Chipotle Aioli

Makes 2 cups

1 egg

2 egg yolks

2 crushed cloves garlic

1 tablespoon mustard

¼ cup lemon juice

½ cup each: extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil

½ bunch cilantro, finely chopped

2 chipotle chilies, or more to taste

1 red onion, finely chopped

Combine the egg, egg yolks, garlic, mustard and lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. With the machine still running, add the olive oil and canola oil in a slow stream; blend until the mixture emulsifies to the consistency of mayonnaise. Add the cilantro and chilies; blend until smooth. Stir in the red onion; serve.

Tangy Soy Dipping Sauce

Makes 2/3 cup

1/3 cup light (regular) soy sauce

2½ tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

1/8 teaspoon sugar, optional

1 to 3 tablespoons chili oil, optional

1 piece (1-inch long) fresh ginger, peeled, finely shredded, or 2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine the soy sauce, vinegar and sugar in a bowl. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Taste and adjust the flavors for a tart-savory balance. Add chili oil as you like for heat. Right before serving, add the ginger or garlic.

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