Every year, I make an annual October pilgrimage to the Eastern Sierra communities of Bridgeport and Mammoth Lakes. The rewards are beautiful fall colors scenery and great fishing, and this year was no exception.
Clocktower Cellar has a great bar menu, with all of the standard pub dishes and many innovative dishes to boot. One such dish is the “Tot-Chos”. These are basically nachos with potato tots substituted for tortilla chips. Clocktower’s Tot-Chos feature Tater Tots, Cheese Sauce, Bacon, Sour Cream, Pico de Gallo, Green Onion, Jalapenos. Chicken, Beef, or Pulled pork can be added to the dish. We ordered it with pulled pork and this is what we got:
And this is what was left 5 minutes later:
These were so good and impossible to stop eating, despite the caloric consequences. I like nachos, but I LOVED the Tot-Chos. And despite the inherent dangers of this dish, I decided to research them and come up with a recipe.
I was surprised to find that Tot-Chos have actually been quite popular in recent years, and that there were many recipes on the internet with numerous variations. The fun thing is that this is a dish that allows for lots of personalization and creativity. You are the chef and any toppings that you might consider for traditional nachos or for a baked potato are fair game. So here is what I came up with for my first attempt, and this was somewhat influenced by what was left in the refrigerator:
For each ingredient, use quantity of your preference
Ore Ida Extra Crispy Tater Tots
Bacon, strips sliced 1/2 in thick and sautéed until cooked, the drained
Jalapeno Peppers, pickled or fresh, sliced or diced
Black Olives, sliced
Mozzarella Cheese, grated
Dubliner Sharp White Cheddar Cheese, grated
Sour Cream, for topping
Chives, minced, for garnish
Here are my toppings prepped and ready to go:
Some other topping ideas are Pico de Gallo, Salsa, Garlic, Cilantro, Red Onions, Green Onions, Chives, Green Olives, Guacamole, Tomatoes, cooked Chorizo, cooked Sausage, cooked Chicken, cooked Beef, Pulled Pork, Fried or Hardboiled Egg, Cheese Sauce, Taco Sauce, Sriracha Sauce, Ranch Dressing, Broccoli, Black Beans, Mushrooms.
Cook your desired amount of tater tots per directions on the bag. You can deep fry them, but considering the calories already in this dish, I opted to oven bake them in a sheet pan, and I also added a few minutes under the broiler to make sure they were extra crispy, considering all of the wet ingredients that were going on top.
While your tots are cooking, cook any of your toppings that need to be pre-cooked, such as bacon bits or meat. A popular method is to add taco seasoning to ground or chopped beef or chicken and brown it in a skillet.
Turn oven to broil and transfer your tater tots to an ovenproof dish. Top with your desired toppings. Here’s was what my first attempt looked like before going under the broiler; so many toppings you can hardly see the tots, but there are actually two layers of tots and toppings (and yes, I like my bacon):
Place dish under broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly and maybe a little browned, and then remove from oven. Top with sour cream and chives, and serve.
Here was my second shot at Tot-Chos which I made for Paula to try. This one had tots, spicy Italian chicken sausage, pico de gallo, red onion, pepperoncini, mozzarella, cheddar, and basil; and we just did one layer of Tots. Paula is a slow eater… but that changed when she got into this. I was lucky to get my share.
As with nachos, cheese sauce seems to be more common in most internet recipes for Tot-Chos. But I did not want to go to the trouble; I needed my Tot-Cho fix quick! So, I used shredded cheese and they came out great. If you prefer to use a cheese sauce, please avoid store bought cheese sauces which use processed cheese. Yuck!! Find a recipe on the internet and use a good quality unprocessed cheese such as cheddar or jack.
When using a cheese sauce, typically all toppings that need to be cooked are cooked while the tots are cooking. The toppings then all go on the cooked tots and then the cheese sauce is poured over, and they are ready for service. No broiling or additional heating needed.
This is a really enjoyable dish to make, and not too much trouble. But it is a caloric nightmare, so save it for special occasions, and enjoy!