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My Challenge? Appetizing Tater Tot Casserole

roame Sep 4, 2012 09:33 AM

My friend issued me a challenge that hasn't been bested by my cookbooks or my powers of Googling. Heck, even Chow didn't have a topic, forcing me to quit lurking and ask a question.

Neither of us grew up eating Tater Tot Casserole, though being from the southern Midwest we are are familiar with casseroles and potlucks in general. Without that haze of nostalgia she claims that the tater tot casserole her former roommate concocted bimonthly was the most reprehensible thing she's ever had. A gloppy mess of condensed soup, ground beef, canned green beans (sometimes), and a strata of essentially steamed tater tots on top with some bagged cheese over the top.

I like casseroles and think they can be done well. I think Tater Tot Casserole could be made edible but now that she called me on it I'm kinda stuck. I can't find any recipe that has been dressed up, which surprised me. (Though one woman's secret ingredient is sour cream.)

Any advice, Chowhounds? I'm torn on what my approach should be. Should I stick with all the processed foods that are typical but just improving on his techniques? (I know the boy. I've seen him eat ramen straight from the package. I know he didn't fry those tots first, and I think a crisping in bacon grease and not being tucked under cheese to become soggy would make a difference.) Should I gussy up the ingredients with some carmelized onion, a bechamel, etc? Or maybe take it to a different flavor profile and make essentially a Shepherd's Pie with tater tots instead of mashed spuds? And then the thought of sweet potato tots and some cayenne drifted through my head...

Picture attached? What we want to avoid.

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  1. sunshine842 RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 09:44 AM

    what's the original recipe? It would be easier to help you take it uptown if we knew what we were driving...!

    15 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842
      The Dairy Queen RE: sunshine842 Sep 4, 2012 10:10 AM

      Here you go, I'll bet this one is pretty close: http://www.food.com/recipe/tater-tot-...


      1. re: The Dairy Queen
        roame RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 4, 2012 10:33 AM

        That is really close to how it sounds. I don't think there is so much an original recipe as a general concept, like a lot of good old American Campbell's style casseroles.

        1. re: The Dairy Queen
          sunshine842 RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 4, 2012 11:05 AM

          I think if you start swapping in sweet potatoes and getting too far from the original, you're crossing the line to a "tater-tot casserole INSPIRED" recipe, rather than taking TTC to a higher level.

          Ground sirloin (the lean stuff) to begin with...you could even toy with using ground bison. (a beef/bison blend - you don't want it to be TOO lean)

          Use the tater tots -- you're making TATER TOT casserole, not sweet potato casserole.

          Bechamel sauce, mixed at about 2:1 with sour cream. (I use this ratio all the time to sub for cream of whatever soup -- can't buy condensed cream soups here - -and it works really well)

          Fresh vegetables, natch.

          Some chopped sauteed mushrooms -- crimini or porcini, please.

          First off, I'd put the tater tots on a baking sheet in the oven to crisp and brown. Steamed tots are nasty. Now take a pancake turner and mash them a little. Put them back in the oven to crisp a little more.

          Brown the ground sirloin with some shallots and garlic (leeks, maybe?). Drain well.

          Blanch the veggies quickly - they'll finish cooking in the oven. Layer those over the sirloin.

          Then the sauteed mushrooms (make sure they're drained)

          Now the bechamel/sour cream mixture.

          And now the broken, toasty tater tots. NOW bake it til it's hot through -- you're not really cooking anything to speak of here -- just making sure it's all bubbly.

          In the last few minutes, sprinkle some good cheese (I'm thinking a Gruyere) over the top and return to the oven til the cheese is melted and golden.

          1. re: sunshine842
            The Dairy Queen RE: sunshine842 Sep 4, 2012 11:44 AM

            I agree that sweet potatoes are way too far off course, but I still like the hash brown idea. I think the point of tater tots in TTHD is the crispy topping with a layer of softness. You can still achieve that with hash browns, I think, and do it from scratch.


            1. re: sunshine842
              BakinBrittt RE: sunshine842 Sep 4, 2012 09:34 PM

              Ore Ida now makes sweet potato tots!

              1. re: BakinBrittt
                melpy RE: BakinBrittt Dec 7, 2012 08:11 AM

                I want to go there.

            2. re: The Dairy Queen
              Berheenia RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 5, 2012 09:57 AM

              Where's the cheese? Gotta have a few cups of cheese. Or maybe that's the vegetarian version- cheese no beef.

              1. re: Berheenia
                The Dairy Queen RE: Berheenia Sep 5, 2012 10:07 AM

                According to my husband, there's no cheese in TTHD!


                1. re: Berheenia
                  kattyeyes RE: Berheenia Sep 5, 2012 10:20 AM

                  There is in the one I make, under the TTs.

                2. re: The Dairy Queen
                  iL Divo RE: The Dairy Queen Dec 6, 2012 08:46 PM


                  it never ceases to amaze me how helpful so many CH'ers are when others are in search of some specific thing.
                  you are one of them-appreciate you for finding this.

                  and thanks a lot cause you know tomorrow on my way home I'm gonna stop at WallyWorld and pick up Tater Tots and make this links' hot dish:))))))

                  1. re: iL Divo
                    The Dairy Queen RE: iL Divo Dec 6, 2012 09:09 PM

                    You're very kind, thank you. I hope you like the dish. I can't say I've prepared that particular recipe, but a recipe very near to that is what my husband grew up with. (You'll see that the person who provided the recipe as well as several from the commenters hail from Minnesota...) He'd say you'd want to use corn or peas rather than the green beans mentioned as an option and that cheese has no place in the recipe, even for sprinkling afterwards, but I seldom personally find any harm in adding cheese to something! He sautes onions nearly everytime he uses ground beef in any dish. Per my husband: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8666... Not haute cuisine by any means, but a form of comfort food for those who grew up with it.


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      iL Divo RE: The Dairy Queen Dec 6, 2012 09:38 PM

                      my entire family hails from Minnesota.
                      all are still there.
                      all prepare this hot dish for any and all occasions.
                      you brought me back, thank you

                      1. re: iL Divo
                        The Dairy Queen RE: iL Divo Dec 7, 2012 07:23 AM

                        Oh, I didn't realize you were from MN. Yes, I am still in MN, but I'm not "from" here. I"m a transplant and a new'ish one, relatively speaking. So, I'm just learning about how to prepare hotdish and wild rice and lefse and other MN delicacies.


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                          Sandy4957 RE: The Dairy Queen May 18, 2014 05:11 PM

                          Also a transplant to MN. Had my first tater tot hot dish very recently (after 23 years here!) and have to say that that is the ultimate comfort food. However, I imagined that it could be improved a bit with green beans and mushrooms. The friend who made it probably did a bechamel, just 'cause he's a foodie. I'll try your suggestion, TDQ. Thanks!

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen
                            iL Divo RE: The Dairy Queen May 18, 2014 07:43 PM

                            Oh no DQ, not me at all, born and raised in sunny Southern California, but mom and all her family ceptin her mom and dad were born there.

                            I have always adored their very typical hot dish meals.
                            so good so hearty, so family...

                3. The Dairy Queen RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 09:48 AM

                  I would love to see the outcome of your quest. I like your shepherd's pie approach, except that I wonder if you could use shredded potatoes/hash browns instead of mashed? That crispy aspect is really important.

                  Something like this might be a starting point, though, I have to laugh at this even being referred to as "entirely from scratch"... http://joyinmykitchen.blogspot.com/2011/01/tater-tot-hotdish.html

                  ETA: or maybe you could use the hash browns as a bottom layer as a crust, like this: http://www.homesmsprealestateblog.com...


                  4 Replies
                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                    The Dairy Queen RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 4, 2012 10:12 AM

                    Maybe Beatrice's book can help. Lots of it is on google books including her basic white sauce recipe: http://books.google.com/books?id=oMn0...


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      roame RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 4, 2012 10:39 AM

                      I hadn't thought of hash browns as a crust, I really like it. I once had a breakfast casserole that used hash browns as a crust, though part of why it worked so well was the egg custard that had melded with it before baking.

                      Yeah, scratch seems a stretch, but those home made tots look interesting...

                      And thanks for the google book! I've used them for school but never looked at cookbooks on there!

                      1. re: roame
                        The Dairy Queen RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 11:51 AM

                        You know what, I'm kind of embarrassed. I didn't realize she made her own tots for that recipe! I saw that tater tots were an ingredient (not noticing the link to the recipe for tater tots) and made some assumptions when I saw a commercial spice mix and a frozen vegetable mix also mentioned. More power to anyone who wants to make their own tots, I say! They would get nothing but respect from me!


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                          roame RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 4, 2012 02:17 PM

                          Well, they were odd tots. I mean, A for effort, but they are baked mashed potatoes rolled in a coating. I'm ambivalent to the addition.

                  2. t
                    travelerjjm RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 10:12 AM

                    I do something that might pass.

                    Chop up some green chiles
                    Shred some cheese, I mix Jack and Cheddar, but this is flexible
                    Cook tater tots according to bag directions (I deep fry)
                    Remove skin and brown some chorizo in a pan
                    Combine cooked tots, chorizo and green chile in a broiler-proof pan
                    Cover with shredded cheese
                    Broil until cheese looks perfect -- melted and about to brown.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: travelerjjm
                      roame RE: travelerjjm Sep 4, 2012 10:39 AM

                      Oooh, chilies and chorizo improve everything...

                      1. re: travelerjjm
                        travelerjjm RE: travelerjjm Sep 4, 2012 10:43 AM

                        Sometimes we add scrambled eggs, too.

                        1. re: travelerjjm
                          blue room RE: travelerjjm Sep 4, 2012 11:53 AM

                          Oh my what do you call this ambrosia?

                          1. re: blue room
                            travelerjjm RE: blue room Sep 4, 2012 11:56 AM

                            Well, we don't really have a name other then "chile cheese tots (with chorizo or with eggs or with ...)". Any suggestions?

                            1. re: travelerjjm
                              blue room RE: travelerjjm Sep 4, 2012 12:37 PM

                              I'm gonna call them "Traveler's Tots". Yep.

                              1. re: blue room
                                travelerjjm RE: blue room Sep 4, 2012 12:40 PM


                        2. Caitlin McGrath RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 10:20 AM

                          If you get really ambitious, you could make your own tater tots: http://www.chow.com/recipes/29271-basic-potato-tots

                          Chow even has flavor variations: http://www.chow.com/food-news/70531/m...

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                            charlesbois RE: Caitlin McGrath Sep 5, 2012 07:10 AM

                            +1 on the homemade tater tots. The storebought kind always leave a weird taste in my mouth. You could even switch it up and make zucchini tots!

                            1. re: charlesbois
                              The Dairy Queen RE: charlesbois Sep 5, 2012 08:16 AM

                              Interesting. I've never heard of zucchini tots, but they sound good if this is what you were thinking: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2012/07/zu...

                              Personally, I still think some form of potato is an important part of tater tot hotdish. Of course, I'm sure Zucchini Tot Hotdish would be perfectly lovely.

                              So, yesterday I asked my husband (who grew up with TTHD) what he thought were the essentially elements of TTHD.

                              Him: "Ground beef, tater tots, corn or peas (whichever you had on hand), and condensed soup. At our house, you always sauteed onions with the beef, but that's not essential."

                              Me: "How about canned green beans?"

                              Him: "Green beans? No, never! That's just wrong. And definitely not canned."

                              Me: "Cheese?"

                              Him: "No. No cheese!"

                              Me: "Does it have to be condensed soup? Can't you just make a white sauce from scratch?"

                              Him: "Nope. Canned."

                              Me: "Why not white sauce? Most people probably couldn't tell the difference anyway."

                              Him: "Well, if you can't tell the difference, what's wrong with canned? Besides, it's supposed to be a pantry meal."

                              Me: "Everyone has flour, butter, and chicken stock in their pantry."

                              Him: "Look, it's not supposed to be GOOD."

                              Me: "What? It's not supposed to be GOOD?"

                              Him: "No, you never go, 'Yay, TTHD!'. You don't go, 'Boo, TTHD!' either. You just knew your mom was pulling together dinner from whatever she had on hand that night."

                              So, there you go, folks. TTHD is not supposed to be good...


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                kattyeyes RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 5, 2012 08:19 AM

                                "TTHD is not supposed to be good..."
                                Oh, but it CAN be! ;)

                                1. re: kattyeyes
                                  The Dairy Queen RE: kattyeyes Sep 5, 2012 08:51 AM

                                  Of course! That's why WE are all here!


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                    christy319 RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 12, 2012 02:45 PM

                                    The best part of that conversation is that tater tots are assumed to be a staple that we have at all times.

                                2. re: The Dairy Queen
                                  cheesecake17 RE: The Dairy Queen Dec 16, 2012 04:50 PM

                                  Thanks for a good laugh!

                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                    Sal Vanilla RE: The Dairy Queen Dec 16, 2012 05:00 PM

                                    Oh my gosh make me laugh! So green beans would put it over the not supposed to be good limit?

                                    So funny what we have such strong and absolute opinions on. Err... facts.

                                    Sorta like people at Thanksgiving dinner requiring canned cranberry - dumped out with the can impression still intact. Nothing else can be substituted in or it is ruined!

                                    1. re: Sal Vanilla
                                      cheesecake17 RE: Sal Vanilla Dec 17, 2012 10:03 AM

                                      I have a relative who would eat tater tot casserole 3x every day, green beans or not.

                                      Same relative requires cranberry sauce from a can with any meal that involves turkey. Relative doesn't eat turkey- only the sauce

                                      1. re: cheesecake17
                                        Sal Vanilla RE: cheesecake17 Dec 17, 2012 02:58 PM

                                        Is your relative named Bill? And do you have a tall, gorgeous (emphasis there) blonde incredibly sweet sister carrying an extra 10 in her caboose?

                                        I am in a a battle for my self esteem. Pardon the descriptors. ; ) Unless you are my sister. In which case... bring cran cocktail again this year. See if you can make Mr. Sullen go off the deep end. Bwahaha! We'll hide the actual cran from him and spring it on him after he has a good pout.

                                        1. re: Sal Vanilla
                                          cheesecake17 RE: Sal Vanilla Dec 17, 2012 05:27 PM

                                          Haha, my relative is old enough to eat what he wants with no one bothering him anymore. As in "it's ok that grandpa had four cupcakes before dinner, ya know he's OLD"

                                          But hey, to each their own. And for what it's worth this relative snatches taters off the kids plates

                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen
                                      iL Divo RE: The Dairy Queen Dec 17, 2012 11:46 AM

                                      o u r funnyTDQ

                                3. biondanonima RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 10:22 AM

                                  I've had dishes that involved tater tots that were delicious, but the tots MUST be crisped first. Also, mixing the tots with cream of crap soup is going to make them nasty no matter what, so I would save that for your filling mixture and use the tots as more of a topping, as in this recipe: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,2226,... Better would be to leave the cream of crap soup out entirely and use sour cream and/or eggs as your binder (although that might take it more into the breakfast realm), or make a bechamel.

                                  Pre-crisped tots can hold up to cheese just fine, so feel free to add cheese as a topping as long as you've got nice crispy tots under it.

                                  I would leave out the canned vegetables entirely - I find canned vegetables to be absolutely revolting and their foul texture would ruin any dish. Go with freshly sauteed mushrooms or quartered, caramelized shallots (or both) if you must add vegetation. Even something like chopped, sauteed kale would be better than canned anything.

                                  A sweet potato tot casserole sounds heavenly - I'd use spicy pork sausage instead of ground beef, with some caramelized shallots and fennel and maybe a little blue cheese on top?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: biondanonima
                                    roame RE: biondanonima Sep 4, 2012 10:42 AM

                                    Nothing is worse than soggy fries or tots, it's great to hear that you have had them come out crispy if the right prep work is done.

                                    Yeah, there will be no canned greenbeans in my kitchen ever, if I can help it. I'm all for sauteed mushrooms or caramelized anything though.

                                    I like the thought of blue cheese with the sweet potatoes, that sounds really good. Maybe some andoullie as the sausage... I like where this is going.

                                    1. re: biondanonima
                                      melpy RE: biondanonima Dec 7, 2012 08:18 AM

                                      This tot concoction sounds good. Sweet potato, fennel, blue cheese and that's just the beginning. Why do I feel like I am reading a DOtM?

                                    2. Terrie H. RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 10:27 AM

                                      My first thought was a cross between Cracker Barrel's hash brown casserole and a chicken pot pie. I'm not a big fan of ground beef casseroles and would prefer chicken, which is cheaper than ground beef these days. If I were to attempt this, I'd cook the hash browns in the oven as directed on the package to keep the texture from being mushy, and poach boneless, skinless chicken breasts in chicken broth. I'd saute some onion and celery until soft, (add mushrooms, carrots, bell pepper, peas, lima beans, or whatever else you fancy) and add them to a veloute made with butter, flour and the chicken stock you used to cook the chicken. Mix in the veggies, chicken, tater tots, a little dairy (sour cream or heavy cream) and grated cheddar or other melty cheese. An addition of an egg or two might make it puff up a bit instead of being soupy. Just an idea on how to try and recreate without using cans.

                                      I'm saving travelerjjim's idea -- it sounds delicious.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Terrie H.
                                        roame RE: Terrie H. Sep 4, 2012 10:43 AM

                                        A veloute would probably give it the texture the canned soup is actually going for, thanks for that idea. Chicken is a good idea, but I would lean toward thighs for more flavor.

                                        1. re: roame
                                          Terrie H. RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 10:59 AM

                                          I prefer thighs, myself, but thought that your friend looking for a hamburger casserole might prefer the chicken breasts as it seems to be more popular. Not something I'd try and fix, but I hope you find something delicious for your friend.

                                      2. kattyeyes RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 10:50 AM

                                        Here's a handy substitution for condensed cream of mushroom soup:

                                        I've successfully swapped it in on other recipes.

                                        Meantime, it's delicious to dice an onion and 1/2 a red pepper to cook with Adobo seasoning, no matter what ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey). I use a mix of frozen peas and corn when I make tater tot casserole. In fact, thanks for the reminder. I haven't made it in years--maybe later this week.

                                        1. c
                                          christy319 RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 10:57 AM

                                          I love this thread. I'd never heard of TTC until I married into a family of midwesterners. TTC is a staple of my sister in law's household. Interestingly her kids hate it but are made to eat it because she puts lima beans in it and it's thus the "vegetable" of the dinner. My other inlaws make different types of potato casseroles, all using some form of frozen, processed potato product. I have been intrigued by them all because they are not good, but it seems like they could be. But I'm actually not sure it can be good using frozen processed potato products. You might have to stick with real ingredients for potato casseroles. The NY Times had this recipe for Updated Funeral Potatoes and this, to me, seemed like a much improved version of all of this midwestern crap. I made it and liked it; there are some things I would do differently next time, though (I like a little more crunch to my potatoes, so I would try either not baking, or underbaking, the potatoes before putting them in the casserole).


                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: christy319
                                            prima RE: christy319 Sep 4, 2012 11:00 AM

                                            Thanks for the link to the updated Funeral Potatoes. Funeral Potatoes are also known as Schwartzies Potatoes ( http://www.bestofbridge.com/2010/03/0... ) and are always part of my cousin's Thanksgiving table out west. ;-)

                                            1. re: christy319
                                              sunshine842 RE: christy319 Sep 4, 2012 01:43 PM

                                              y'know, I'm a grownup, and I LIKE fresh lima beans...but putting lima beans into this casserole just sounds like punishment.

                                            2. lafouchow RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 12:04 PM

                                              I would Italian-Americanize it by crisping the tots on the stove or in the oven, and then baking it Chicken Parmesan style. Perhaps cheddar would vamp in up a little.

                                              1. i
                                                Isolda RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 12:09 PM

                                                If the only rule is that the casserole has to be topped with tots, I think you have a lot of options. Why not use smoked salmon (the northwest kind) as your meat? Or for a milder taste, use cod or haddock? Season with onions, celery and carrots, and maybe a layer of sliced hardboiled eggs.

                                                1. m
                                                  Mestralle RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 12:16 PM

                                                  Personally, I'd use some sort of stew meat or chopped cube steak instead of ground beef and perhaps sour cream in place of the soup (more like a stroganoff base). And if you layer the cheese underneath the tots (either par-bake or at least thaw the tots), they won't get as soggy on the bottom, and they'll crisp up nicely on top.

                                                  1. dave_c RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 12:20 PM

                                                    Tater tot casserole with green beans? I've never tried one with green beans.

                                                    I would suggest looking at the Ore-Ida website for tater tot casserole recipes and use the highest rated recipe as a starting point.

                                                    Your Shepherd's pie sound like a nice variation.

                                                    1. jw615 RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 12:24 PM

                                                      This is anything but upscale, but when I make tater tot casserole for the daycare that I work at, we use turkey ham instead of ground meat, and the cheese goes in the middle with the tots on top so that they crisp up a bit.

                                                      1. b
                                                        BangorDin RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 01:05 PM

                                                        Here is an idea, but I don't know where you find "potato smiles" or what they are. http://mealmakeovermoms.com/kitchen/2...

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: BangorDin
                                                          kattyeyes RE: BangorDin Sep 4, 2012 01:35 PM


                                                          I am a longtime fan of the smiley face since the whole 70s "Have a nice day" thing, but those badadas are a little creepy. Maybe it's just not my day. :) Or maybe baking a smiley to a golden crisp is as creepy to others as it is to me. LOL.

                                                        2. twyst RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 02:26 PM

                                                          If I really wanted to go all out, this is how I would go about it.

                                                          1. I would make my own processed cheese using the method from modernist cuisine. Its super easy once you order the powder you need off the internet and it will let you use a high quality gouda cheddar blend that will melt well without getting goopy. Recipe here, although you can use whatever cheeses you want. http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/mac-c... (omit the pasta obviously


                                                          2. I would do the beef just as if I was making a cottage (shepherd's) pie.

                                                          3. I would make pommes dauphine instead of using tator tots.

                                                          By going this route you manage to elevate every component of the dish which should give you a much better finished plate!

                                                          As a matter of fact, I may do this sunday for football!

                                                          1. s
                                                            sueatmo RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 02:33 PM

                                                            http://tinyurl.com/9rtyj22 Ore Ida, the mfg. of Tater Tots has 11 recipe choices for Tater Tot casserole. So, you can use those as a jumping off point if you want.

                                                            When you are searching for a recipe that involves a processed food, often the best resource is the mfg site.

                                                            1. v
                                                              valerie RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 07:56 PM

                                                              I have made this Pizza Tot Casserole for my kids before. It calls for a can of tomato soup but no cream of mushroom soup (the thought of anything made with cream of mushroom soup grosses me out!).

                                                              I skipped the mushrooms (my son is like the FBI and would have found the mushrooms!). And I used red pepper instead of green pepper, and though it has been a while, I think I might have even mixed shredded carrots in there.


                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: valerie
                                                                The Dairy Queen RE: valerie Sep 4, 2012 08:12 PM

                                                                That actually sounds pretty good! I might add that to my list of things to try.


                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                  valerie RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 5, 2012 06:16 AM

                                                                  I still owe you a response on the other thread...just have not had a chance to read through it!

                                                                  1. re: valerie
                                                                    The Dairy Queen RE: valerie Sep 5, 2012 07:09 AM

                                                                    You're very kind, thank you. Obviously, churning out weeknight dinners is an ongoing challenge for me, so whenever you get to it, I'm sure it will be helpful.

                                                                    Also, not that I need another cookbook, but as a result of reading this thread yesterday, I went ahead and bought a copy of Beatrice Ojakangas’ "The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever." I just realized that I think there will be a lot of casseroles in my future (especially with winter upon us) , and I liked her approached to more scratch cooking than dumping from a can.


                                                              2. Hank Hanover RE: roame Sep 4, 2012 09:34 PM

                                                                I can't vouch for it but Emeril LaGasse has a tator tot casserole recipe...


                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Hank Hanover
                                                                  Berheenia RE: Hank Hanover Sep 5, 2012 10:02 AM

                                                                  I like the ham part. It sounds like a good brunch dish.

                                                                2. Ruthie789 RE: roame Sep 5, 2012 05:40 PM

                                                                  Well the Duggar family has a recipe for Tater tot casserole link below:
                                                                  It does feed a substantial amount of people.

                                                                  1. greygarious RE: roame Sep 5, 2012 06:08 PM

                                                                    Reading through these regional approaches, it seems to me that someone south of the Mason/Dixon line needs to come up with Gator Tot Casserole. It should have one of the green-tinted cream-o-crap soups - asparagus or broccoli.

                                                                    1. kattyeyes RE: roame Sep 9, 2012 06:38 PM

                                                                      Well, you nice folks had me thinking about Tater Tot casserole all week. Today, I updated my old recipe with chicken sausage as the meat layer--YUM! Three of us attacked a 13" x 10" casserole dish layered up as follows:

                                                                      1.25 # crumbled chicken sausage cooked with 1/2 large onion and 1 yellow bell pepper.
                                                                      2 cups each: frozen peas, frozen corn
                                                                      Condensed cream of mushroom soup layer:
                                                                      8 oz. mushrooms cooked in 4 tablespoons butter with a pressed clove of garlic + white pepper, S&P and 1 generous tablespoon of Harvey's Bristol Cream...then 4 tablespoons flour to form a roux, 1/2 cup chicken stock & 1/2 cup milk
                                                                      1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded cheddar over the soup layer
                                                                      Scatter Tater Tots on top--sprinkle with paprika, salt & pepper.
                                                                      Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes.

                                                                      Feeds three hungry people with two leftover lunch portions. :) DEEEEEEEELICIOUS! One hungry person (OK, it was my mom) was wishing there were more tots on top. :)

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: kattyeyes
                                                                        Ruthie789 RE: kattyeyes Sep 10, 2012 07:38 AM

                                                                        I have never eaten Tator Tot casserole although I did provide a recipe in this thread, based on your description I think I will give it a try.

                                                                        1. re: Ruthie789
                                                                          kattyeyes RE: Ruthie789 Sep 10, 2012 07:46 AM

                                                                          :) Hope you like it, Miss Ruthie. It doesn't need to be a trasherole!

                                                                          1. re: kattyeyes
                                                                            Ruthie789 RE: kattyeyes Sep 10, 2012 07:27 PM

                                                                            Lol, but I happen to like casseroles however beleagered they may be!

                                                                            1. re: kattyeyes
                                                                              pine time RE: kattyeyes Dec 6, 2012 02:03 PM

                                                                              Trasherole--so gonna steal that! Used to have the White Trash Cookbook, from which I think my Mom made Tater Tot casserole, replete with the cream o' whatever soup. I may have to try some of the upthread upgrades.

                                                                        2. The Dairy Queen RE: roame Sep 12, 2012 04:17 AM

                                                                          Oh, I totally forgot about Haute Dish's tater tot hot dish: http://www.haute-dish.com/dinner/

                                                                          Haute Dish is an upscale (snout to tail) Minneapolis restaurant that makes its "deconstructed" hot dish from braised short ribs and porcini bechamel... I've not personally had it but someone from yelp described it thusly: "It comes with two big tots (perfectly crispy tots) and a tender short rib smothered in creamy gravy." Apparently the "tots" are stuffed with gruyere. And the baby green beans are al dente crunchy.

                                                                          Here's a link to a pic: http://www.victualstorytelling.com/wp...


                                                                          1. f
                                                                            FriedClamFanatic RE: roame Sep 12, 2012 05:48 AM

                                                                            For something completely different......line the bottom of the pan with hash browns. Top them with chopped cooked lobster or ersatz lobster, sauteed sliced mushrooms and onions and frozen peas. Pour on just enough Lobster Bisque to almost cover over, top with the Tater tots and bake as you normally would. Sprinkle some shredded chese or Parmesan at the end and serve.

                                                                            For the "cheapo" version, forget the lobster and up the mushroom count, maybe using small whole caps

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: FriedClamFanatic
                                                                              Ruthie789 RE: FriedClamFanatic Sep 14, 2012 07:41 AM

                                                                              That combo is rather decadent!

                                                                              1. re: Ruthie789
                                                                                FriedClamFanatic RE: Ruthie789 Sep 14, 2012 09:31 PM

                                                                                But of course!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Who says Tater Tots have to be "down-market"?..LOL. you want a good cheap filling dinner, stick with the basics............if you want something out of the ordinary that will impress ppl..as the OP said she wanted to do.....well, then, decadence as it comes!..lol

                                                                            2. paulj RE: roame Sep 12, 2012 09:34 AM

                                                                              Tatertots work well as a topping for shepherds/cottage pie. They can be used straight out of the freezer. Just arrange in a single layer (they can be on edge).

                                                                              I prefer the generic disk shaped tots (tater rounds), since they have more surface area to get crisp.

                                                                              I can't think of why these potatoes would have any more affinity to one type of base (meat stew or what have you) than another. They don't have to be used with a cream sauce/soup base. The base just has to be stiff enough to support the tots, so they stay on top and bake nicely.

                                                                              I don't use a recipe, but this RR one gives the idea

                                                                              1. j
                                                                                jojojovich RE: roame Dec 6, 2012 01:44 PM

                                                                                Someone mentioned carmelized onions, which makes me think of using homemade cream of corn "soup" or homemade creamed corn (which I made recently which was killer delicious), along with some spice in there. I love the opposing / complimentary flavors. Kids likely wouldn't like it, and it's them who are chiming in for this.

                                                                                They, on the other hand, have enjoyed when I have taco'd up the ground meat I'm using. And there, especially, I could see using sour cream instead of the creamed soup. I've not yet done that, but may tonight! ;)

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: jojojovich
                                                                                  jojojovich RE: jojojovich Dec 7, 2012 07:45 AM

                                                                                  One note on the corn as the vegetable option -- it's SWEET! I only added a little bit in my last-night taco version, and it really, really sweetened it up. The kids had no problem with it, though I have seen them avoid green beans if I add those. I found it surprisingly sweet. Maybe if you really bastardized this thing and used ... fall-apart-roasted beef a la barbacoa or lamb, though then I would auto-think of artichokes. ... Not sure! It's a casserole though, so heck, none of it matters all that much [imho]!

                                                                                2. f
                                                                                  foiegras RE: roame Dec 6, 2012 08:16 PM

                                                                                  I've never made a Tater Tot casserole, but I'm feeling inspired now ...

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: foiegras
                                                                                    thistle5 RE: foiegras Dec 7, 2012 08:30 AM

                                                                                    My son makes this every year for his school Xmas party-ground bison, cream of something soup, no veggies, a little mixed Mexican blend cheese, & some smoked paprika, topped w/ a layer of tots, then the school initials spelled out w/ more tots sprinkled w/ more smoked paprika (school colors are maroon & grey, but who would try & make grey food?). Casserole returns empty every year. He also makes a mean bean dip for the vegetarians.

                                                                                  2. s
                                                                                    Sal Vanilla RE: roame Dec 14, 2012 09:08 PM

                                                                                    bag Tater Tots fried in bacon grease, dump in casserole, slightly shoosh in. Splash with cider vinegar. Top that with cheddar, fried kielbasa chunks/chopped onion, braised and vinegared kale (or other sturdy green), smoosh. Top with other half of tots, cheddar, oven 375 until unbearably crispy.

                                                                                    Uglier than a red headed step child.... scarfed by everyone including the velveeta/cambell soup haters.

                                                                                    Goose poop in the sand.

                                                                                    Sincerely, a red headed SIL lover.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Sal Vanilla
                                                                                      sunshine842 RE: Sal Vanilla Dec 14, 2012 11:16 PM

                                                                                      I'm not even going to pretend that doesn't sound really, really good.

                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842
                                                                                        Sal Vanilla RE: sunshine842 Dec 16, 2012 03:37 PM

                                                                                        Haha. Resistance is futile!

                                                                                    2. applgrl RE: roame Dec 16, 2012 05:03 PM

                                                                                      Okay, lots of steps but worth the trouble.
                                                                                      1) mix ground beef or pork with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder--season to your liking. Brown it in the oven in the casserole dish you're using. (Drain the fat, if you wish).

                                                                                      2) while meat is cooking, make this most excellent mushroom soup....
                                                                                      BUT--only add about a third the liquid so you end up with mushroom gravy instead of soup.

                                                                                      3) layer fresh, canned or frozen green beans over the meat, top with mushroom gravy, and heat through.

                                                                                      4) Fry the tots in canola oil, and place them atop the casserole immediately before serving.

                                                                                      ps get kids to do the dishes.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: applgrl
                                                                                        Sal Vanilla RE: applgrl Dec 16, 2012 07:17 PM

                                                                                        Isn't it funny how the PS portion is the most crucial?

                                                                                        1. re: Sal Vanilla
                                                                                          divadmas RE: Sal Vanilla May 18, 2014 08:16 PM

                                                                                          i recently baked some safeway brand tater tots. definitely not what i remembered as a kid. safeway frozen sweet potato (orange yam) fries are pretty good though.

                                                                                      2. C. Hamster RE: roame May 19, 2014 04:24 PM

                                                                                        It's not exactly a casserole but I make a cheesy frittata with tots for weekend breakfast .

                                                                                        Tots would be on the menu for my "last meal"

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: C. Hamster
                                                                                          kattyeyes RE: C. Hamster May 19, 2014 05:49 PM

                                                                                          I crossed a strata with tots and enjoyed it immensely. :D

                                                                                          1. re: C. Hamster
                                                                                            John E. RE: C. Hamster May 19, 2014 07:15 PM

                                                                                            When I was a kid my mom made Tater Tots with some frequency only because it was an easy thing to make that her boys would eat. As an adult, they really don't do anything for me (as in tots and ketchup) but as a topping to a hotdish, they are good. I have some cottage pie filling in the freezer and I think I'll go with tots instead of mashed potatoes.

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