So The Random Hausfrau dropped by for a short visit a couple of weeks ago, and she brought her really spirited three year old daughter with her. I'm already Auntie Mame to two cool kids, but they're almost teenagers now and their parents (my brother and sister in law) were smart enough to not entrust me with the precious lives of their offspring when they were young (too bad I can be an even badder influence now that they're still impressionable and that I can do some real serious awesome damage-- watch out for The Clash mp3s I'm sending Connor). So even though I'm an experienced Auntie, I've never actually hosted a "little" for such a long stretch, and certainly not in my death trap of a loft. Not gonna lie, I was really, really worried, though not worried enough to, oh I don't know, child proof anything at all in my industrial space. I'm so thoughtful like that.
Anyway, my main concern was making sure the little didn't expire from hunger, and I needed a pretend reason to make hotdog tatertots, so I did. And The Frau and I ate about three dozen each and the little had exactly two, as in one, two. But whatever, maybe good taste isn't genetic. Picky littles be damned, I made an extra batch of these and froze them to keep as last minute bites when unexpected grown up people show up, though I'm very thankful that I don't know any of those and can keep all of them for myself.
Yield: About 2 dozen tots
1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 hot dogs
½ small red onion, finely chopped
1 large pickle spear (preferably a spicy pickle), finely chopped
1 pickled or fresh jalapeño, finely chopped
¼ cup finely grated mild cheddar cheese
⅛ teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
Canola oil, for frying
Ketchup or your favorite tater tot condiment, for serving
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Season the water with 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt and add the potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are almost tender, about 7 minutes. Add the hot dogs and continue to boil until the potatoes are tender and the hot dogs are heated through, about 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes and hot dogs through a colander and set aside to cool completely.
Once the potatoes are cooled, transfer them to a large bowl. Use a potato masher to smash the potatoes until the texture is semi-smooth. Slice each of the hot dogs in half lengthwise, then slice each half in half lengthwise again. Finely chop the hot dog quarters crosswise into small pieces and add the pieces to the large bowl along with the potatoes, onion, pickle, jalapeño, cheese, celery salt, remaining ½ teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper. Use a rubber spatula to mix together until just combined. Use your hands to form the mixture into oblong tots, each about 1½ inches long and ¾-inch thick. Place the tots in a single layer on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
Into a medium bowl, add the flour. In another medium bowl, whisk the eggs together. Into a third medium bowl, add the panko. One at a time, coat a tot in the flour, then the egg wash and finally the panko, taking care to cover each tot completely.
In a large, shallow saucepan, add just enough oil to come 2 inches up the sides of the pan. Place the pan over medium-high heat and heat the oil until it reaches 350° on an instant-read thermometer. Add the tots in batches (about 5 tots per batch) and fry until the tots are golden-brown on all sides and hot all the way through, about 4 minutes per batch. Use a spider or a slotted spoon to transfer the tots to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Serve the tots hot with ketchup or your favorite condiment.
The little managed not to fall from the second floor or burn herself on my torch or get poisoned by anything on my floor. And I learned that Beans the Cat is exceptionally good with kids, so I've got that going for me, which is good.
I know I'm not fooling anyone into thinking I'm an adult, but I did make the responsible decision to leave out the jalapeños from the recipe, since a little was supposed to be eating them, though I did still use spicy pickles. The little survived, and I survived the little.