From Dan Whalen comes the dish that started the tot renaissance.
In his cookbook, "Tots!: 50 Tot-ally Awesome Recipes from Totchos to Sweet Po-tot-o Pie" (Workman), Whalen writes: "A few years back, totchos began popping up on menus across the country, and since then it's been tot mania. Making your own pico de gallo and guac will always make this recipe special, but feel free to use store-bought. You can bake the tots for this recipe if you like, but I recommend pan-frying them – it takes this dish to the next level!"
For the pico de gallo:
3 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
5 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded if you wish to reduce the heat, and diced
1 small garlic clove, minced or grated
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 lime
For the guacamole:
1 large avocado, halved and pitted
2 Tablespoons pico de gallo
Juice of 1 lime
For the totchos:
1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil
1 1/2 pounds frozen tots (about 65 tots)
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup pickled sliced jalapeños
1/2 cup sour cream
Make the pico de gallo: Combine the tomatoes, onion, diced jalapeños, garlic, and cilantro in a small bowl. Add the lime juice and the salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate the pico de gallo until ready to use (up to 3 days).
Make the guacamole: Scoop the avocado into a medium-size bowl and mash with a fork. Add 2 tablespoons of the pico, along with the lime juice. Stir and add salt to taste. Cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 1 day).
Make the totchos: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a plate with paper towels.
Heat the oil in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and swirl to coat. Add the tots to the skillet in batches of about 20, so as not to crowd the pan, and cook, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Gently stir and toss the tots, being careful not to break them, until they are browned on all sides and crispy, about 10 minutes. Transfer the cooked tots to the prepared plate and repeat with the remaining tots.
When the final batch of tots is just about browned, pile the rest of the cooked tots back into the skillet. Top evenly with the cheese and pickled jalapeños and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the oven and top the totchos with the pico, guac, and sour cream. Serve immediately right in the skillet with a big serving spoon and plates and forks for everyone to dig in. Remember that the skillet is hot!
To scale this recipe up for a crowd, double the pico de gallo and guacamole. Use 4 pounds of tots and divide them between 2 sheet pans (18" x 13"). Double the cheese, pickled jalapeños, and sour cream. Follow the assembly and cooking instructions above, then dump one of the trays onto the other to form a pile.
Recipe from "Tots!: 50 Tot-ally Awesome Recipes from Totchos to Sweet Po-tot-o Pie" by Dan Whalen (Workman), in Trade Paperback and eBook formats, available via Amazon
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