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 hotdish. 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. 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 Minnesota food blogger, who aptly calls hers “tater tot hotdish.”
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 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?
Tater tot hotdish
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces chopped fresh mushrooms
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 frozen tater tots
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
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.)