Makes about 30 Tots
1. Preheat oven to 450˚F.
2. Put the potatoes in a large bowl, add the 2 tablespoons oil and ½ teaspoon of the salt, and toss well to coat. Spread the potatoes out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the bottoms are browned but the tops are a little undercooked, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
3. Pour oil into a depth of 4 inches into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until a deep-fry or candy thermometer inserted into the oil reaches 375˚F.
4. In the meantime, transfer the cooled potatoes to the bowl of a food processor, along with any oil from the baking sheet, and pulse about 30 times until the potato pieces are pea-size or smaller.
5. Pour the potatoes into a large bowl, add the potato flakes, butter, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and stir to combine.
6. Scoop up about 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture and, using your hands, form it into a tot shape; place the formed tot on a plate or rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture.
7. Fry the tots in batches of 10 until crispy, about 4 to 5 minutes per batch. (make sure the oil temperature returns to 375˚F before frying each additional batch) let drain and cool slightly on a cooling rack. Serve hot.
VARIATION: OVEN-BAKED HOMEMADE TOTS
To bake these homemade tots instead of frying them, use a mini muffin tin. Because the tots have contact with the tin on most sides, they get nicely browned and crispy. Keep the oven on after baking the potatoes in step 2. Grease the cups of the mini muffin tin with oil and pack 2 tablespoons of the tot mixture into the bottom of each to make coin-shape tots. Bake at 450˚F until crisp on the bottom and the sides, about 20 minutes.
SPICY CHEESE SAUCE DIRECTIONS:
Makes about 1 ½ Cups
1. Combine the milk, milk powder, and cornstarch in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Continue to cook, whisking until the sauce thickens and the milk powder has dissolved, about 1 minute.
2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese. The cheese should melet, no problem, but if it doesn’t, return to the pot to low heat and whisk until it does. (be careful with the heat at this point because the sauce could separate if heated too rapidly.)
3. Allow the cheese sauce to cool slightly, then stir in the hot sauce, jalapenos, and red pepper flakes. Serve warm.
NOTE: Resist the temptation to use pre-shredded cheese here. Yes, it’s easier, but it won’t work in this recipe.