|A well loved casserole of ground beef, and I like to also add smoked sausage, seasoned with sweet onion and bell pepper and a cream soup sauce and topped with crispy, crunchy tater tot potatoes and cheese.|
Tater Tot CasseroleTater tots. Little pillows of deep fried shredded potatoes. I mean, c'mon... how can you not love those little bite sized crunchy bites of goodness? On the rare occasion that we eat Sonic, I guarantee I'm gettin' the tater tots.
Did y'all know that tater tots were born out of trying to "use it up?" They sure were. Those folks at Ore-Ida were looking for a way to use up the leftover slivers of potatoes and came up with the tater tot. You'd almost think those Griggs brothers were southerners! Around since the early 50s, we consume about 70 million pounds of tater tots a year.
Ah yes... and let us not forget the fabulous famous Tater Tot Casserole! A recipe I'm pretty sure every southerner has in their recipe box. The basic tater tot casserole is very simple, including cream of something soup, cheese, milk or sometimes sour cream, seasoned simply with a bit of salt and pepper, and is usually served as a side dish. Somebody along the way thought to add meat to make it a more substantial main dish, usually ground beef or turkey. Some folks layer the ground beef in the bottom of the casserole raw, but I prefer to pre-cook mine and drain off the fat.
Well, y'all know I can never leave well enough alone, right?
Just one thing to note here with this casserole. A lot of people mix all of the ingredients together, others put the hash browns on the bottom and pour the mixture on top of them. Well, in my little ole humble opinion, you want those tater tots to be crispy on top, really you do! This ain't hash brown casserole y'all. So I put the meat mixture on the bottom, top that with a little bit of cheese, pour the soup mixture over that and arrange the tater tots on top. Bake that uncovered and in the last five minutes, sprinkle just a bit of cheese on top and return to the oven to melt the cheese.
Perfect for toting to a potluck, but you'll want to double it.
Recipe: Tater Tot Casserole©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 30 min | Cook time: 45 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings
- 1 (10-ounce ) can cream of mushroom or chicken soup
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
- 1/4 cup of chopped green bell pepper
- 1 pound of ground beef
- 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
- 1/2 pound of smoked sausage, chopped, optional
- 1 tablespoon of fresh basil
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 pound package of frozen tater tots
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray a 9 x 9 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray; set aside. Whisk together the cream soup and milk until well blended; set aside.
Add olive oil to a large skillet and saute the onion and bell pepper until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ground beef and brown; drain if needed and return to the skillet. Add the minced garlic, cook and stir another minute. Add in the chopped smoked sausage and cook about 3 minutes. Stir in the basil, thyme, Cajun seasoning; taste and add salt and pepper only as needed. Transfer meat mixture to the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the cheddar cheese. Evenly pour the soup mixture over the top. Arrange the tater tots on top and bake uncovered at 350 for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until potatoes are nicely browned and crisp. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of shredded cheese on top and return to the oven just until cheese is melted.
Serve immediately with a green vegetable or a mixed garden salad.
Cook's Notes: I used Savoie's 7-links spicy hot smoked sausage this time, so I eliminated the Cajun seasoning but added in 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder. Okay to use lower fat products. Double for a 9 x 13 inch casserole.
Variation: Add a layer of vegetables (about 1 cup) thawed if frozen, drained if canned. Good choices are green beans, peas, corn and mixed vegetables. Top with the 1/4 cup cheese, followed by the cream soup mixture and tater tots; bake. To make a breakfast casserole, substitute a 1 pound roll of cooked, crumbled breakfast sausage (like Jimmy Dean) and 4 to 5 slices of cooked crumbled bacon for the ground beef/smoked sausage. Eliminate the meat to make this a side dish.
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