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.