32 degrees, snowing
Into the Night, Wolf and Willow
Tater tot casserole is not a dish I grew up with. I didn’t even know it was a thing. I also didn’t know that in places like Minnesota, it’s called tater tot hot dish. Which came first: the casserole or the hot dish? I have no clue. As I said, I’m no expert on the subject of tater tot anything. Perhaps some of you are and can enlighten me on the matter.
The strange thing is that now that I’m the head chef of a restaurant (you all should come visit by the way), I long to keep it simple and comforting at home. I have little desire to do cheffy things when I’m not at work. Enter: tater tot casserole, the cream-soup-based stuff of my wife’s childhood. Not knowing exactly what a proper tater tot casserole should even taste like, I turned to a from scratch recipe written by a Minnesotan food blogger, who aptly calls hers tater tot hot dish. It ditches the canned soup for… let’s call it… homemade cream of mushroom gravy. You add the other usual suspects, like ground beef and frozen vegetables, then you top it with tater tots and cheese and cook it into a bubbling, gooey skillet of wholesome home-cooked goodness that would make someone’s grandma proud. The one remaining question is: do I serve this with ketchup? Tater tots and ketchup make sense to me, but what do I know about it?
Author’s Note: after publishing this recipe for my weekly food column in Anchorage Daily News, I received some tater tot hate mail. A reader was disappointed that I would even consider making a thing as pedestrian as tater tot casserole.
Guess what? That’s just too damn bad.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
- salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 3 dashes hot sauce
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 16 ounces frozen mixed vegetables (corn/carrots/peas/green beans)
- 2 pounds tater tots
- 1/3 cup cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a 12-inch cast iron skillet, cook the ground beef over medium heat until browned. Transfer the beef to a dish and set aside. Return the pan to the heat. Melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Push the vegetables to one side of the pan, allowing the butter and juices to run to the center. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook the flour in the butter and juices, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the soy sauce, Worcestershire, and milk. Add the beef back to the pan and stir everything together. Bring the mixture to a simmer and allow it to bubble and thicken into a gravy-like consistency, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the sour cream until smooth. Add the mixed vegetables and stir to coat. turn off the heat and sprinkle the tater tots on top of the vegetable and beef mixture.
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake 25 minutes. Turn your broiler onto high and cook another 5 minutes, or until the tops of the tater tots are golden and crisp. sprinkle the shredded cheese and green onions on top. Broil 2 more minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve promptly.
Recipe adapted from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles.