Authentic Minnesota Tater Tot Hot Dish
A few weeks ago a Buzzfeed quiz was making the rounds. It was clickbait titled: This Food Test Will Determine If You’re Actually From Minnesota. Being a Minnesotan, I clicked on it to see if I was actually from Minnesota.
I scored a 12 out of 12, but being Minnesotan I’m not going to toot my horn about it.
Minnesotans eat weird food
There was a lot of discussion amongst my Minnesotan friends on Facebook about the foods in the quiz. The one getting most of the attention was the Taco Salad. Apparently we’re freaks in Minnesota because we put Western dressing and Doritos on our taco salads. I vividly remember the Taco Salad with Western dressing and Doritos. My mother rarely cooked due to her stroke. Her repertoire of recipes she had the dexterity to prepare included putting the cloves in the ham and ripping up iceberg lettuce for a salad. Mostly these were physical therapy exercises she hated, so the job of making the nightly salad fell to me.
I don’t know who found the recipe, but I was instructed to put all the ingredients together for said taco salad. I didn’t normally like salad as a youngster, but this one was pretty darn good. However, it was only good with Western dressing – which we always had on hand because my brother liked to smother my container of cottage cheese in it (it’s gross that way, don’t try it), taco salad with plain old French dressing is disgusting.
I’m so off course…
Anyway, the discussion on Facebook was about the taco salad even though the question underneath the taco salad question was about Tater Tot Hot Dish. I knew what Tater Tot Hot Dish was, but had never tried one – let alone prepared one. I went out with a boy in high school who once mentioned he was looking forward to dinner because his mom made Tater Tot Hot Dish. I asked what it was and was immediately disgusted. At my house we didn’t eat such things. My dad, in all of his efforts to prevent my mother from becoming completely agoraphobic, signed them up for a cooking class at Th’rice, now commonly known as Cooks of Crocus Hill or just Cooks. They were given red three-ring binders with all kinds of recipes they attempted.
I’m not really sure how much my mother tried, she complained about going every week, but my dad seemed to enjoy it. He was a pretty good cook before they took the class and even better afterwards. In fact, he cooked so much after the fact much of what he prepared had to go in the freezer. The problem with that was that my father never labeled a damn thing and was pretty careless about dating things. They took the cooking class in the late 70s. When my brother got married in the late 80 there was an impromptu gathering of friends at my parent’s cabin, in a pinch dad pulled out a huge tray of Beef bourguignon that had been prepared back in the days of the cooking class. Most of the guests were polite enough, and I don’t recall anyone actually getting sick, but I do recall the toilet getting stopped up with many napkins full of the stuff.
So Tater Tot Hot Dish was something I’d never experienced.
Always on the lookout for something easy, tasty and that the kids would eat I vowed to give it a try.
And you know what? It’s not that bad with a few tweaks.
Authentic Minnesota Tater Tot Hot Dish
Here’s the original recipe I used from Food.com:
1 lb ground beef
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup (staple of Minnesota pantries)
1 can vegetables (corn, peas, beans)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
While the oven is preheating, brown the ground beef (seasoning to taste as you cook) and drain off the grease.
Spread the beef in the bottom of a 2 to 2 1/2 quart baking dish.
Drain the liquid off the vegetables and spread them over the meat.
Using a rubber spatula, spread the cans of soup over the top of the vegetables and meat. Use the soup as is, straight from the can. Do NOT mix it with anything.
Arrange a layer of tater tots over the top of that.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.
Top with your favorite variety of shredded cheese as you serve.
Easy enough, but I really hate canned vegetables. The veggies are too soggy and there is too much salt in them. I prefer frozen veggies so that’s what I used. Using beans or corn seemed odd to me knowing they were going to be smothered in Cream of Mushroom soup, so I opted for peas.
I browned the ground beef, drained it and added the peas and garlic to it in the casserole dish. If I learned anything from my parents cooking class it’s that garlic makes everything better.
As a Minnesotan I’m used to putting Cream of Mushroom soup in just about everything I make, but honestly it didn’t seem that appealing in this recipe. I was also trying to clean out the fridge and had some leftover sour cream from taco night a month or so ago, so I mixed it in with 2 cans of soup (because one didn’t seem like enough) then spread it on top like the recipe instructed. Pretty gross, right? ** I know it says not to mix the soup with anything up in the recipe, but it’s okay if you do, it won’t ruin it and makes it much better**
From there it was all about arranging the Tater Tots on the top. Turns out I don’t have OCD at all as half way through all I wanted to do was throw them on and spread them around, but I didn’t, I persevered.
After that I tossed it in the oven and waited 50 minutes. Except at 350° Tater Tots will never get crisp on the outside so after the 50 minutes I cooked it for another 15 at 425°. I sprinkled a little cheese on top, although I was a little hesitant about it, but then figured what the hell, it’s already an unhealthy mess.
Here’s the finished Tater Tot Hot Dish.
As I stated before, I don’t like tooting my horn, but this Tater Tot hot dish was the bomb! Seriously, if you’re in need of comfort food, this is the definition of comfort food. It’s got everything going for it (and the sour cream and garlic really helped make it something worthwhile) from the creamy soup to the crunchy potato, it has it all and then some.
Full discloser, the daughter said it was “meh”, she ate it all, and got herself seconds so I’m assuming the “meh” is just the 13 year old talking. The dogs absolutely loved it, but I realize that doesn’t mean much.
Have you made Tater Tot hot dish before and if you have your own tweaks, what are they?