The Breakfast Serial

Tot Waffles Chez Zarin

photos/Dan Zarin

Congratulations! We’re now entering the (eleventh? twelfth?) straight week of sheltering in place, and we’re still hanging in there! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been out of work since mid-March with little to keep me occupied beyond my daily walks, an ever-diminishing Netflix queue, and some expert-level stress eating. And cooking.

Since the family’s not going out to eat these days, I’m spending more time than ever in the kitchen. At first, I had lofty expectations for myself, promising I’d finally get to those time-consuming, complicated recipes I’d always put off because I was too busy. But now that I actually have the time, it turns out I don’t really want to make boeuf bourguignon or gâteau opéra. I want brownies and grilled-cheese sandwiches and spaghetti and meatballs. In times of strife, comfort food is king.

In search of inspiration I turned to the Internet, where I discovered the “tot waffle.” It first appeared a few years ago, but it’s been gaining more attention over the past few months. The tot waffle is incredibly simple to make, absolutely delicious, and utterly devoid of any nutritional value. In other words, it’s the perfect comfort food.

I started by thawing a bag of tater tots on a plate in the microwave. After about 15 minutes of digging, I located the waffle iron at the back of a kitchen cabinet and preheated the iron to medium-hot. Then I filled it with tots — it took about 40 to cover the surface, plus a few extra on top — and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I closed the iron and set a timer for 10 minutes.

While I waited for the waffle to cook, I sliced up some avocados, mixed a batch of “everything bagel” toppings, and started frying some eggs to fill out my vision of a legitimate meal I could proudly serve my family for breakfast (or maybe it was lunch, or dinner; I have no idea what time it is anymore).

I ended up making two tot waffles, which was enough for the three of us. And… they were amazing: super-crispy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside. My daughter said they were almost as good as the potatoes from Dutch’s or Palace Diner. As a base for avocado toast and over-easy eggs, they were pretty much unbeatable.

Let’s be honest: I can’t wait until this is all over and I can go back to my favorite restaurants. I miss the changes of scenery. I miss the perfectly poached eggs and the velvety, unbroken Hollandaise sauces that I dare not even attempt in my own kitchen. I miss the friendly service, the bottomless coffee, and the sense of camaraderie that can’t be recreated at home.

But until then, at least I’ll have tot waffles.