|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 y'all!
Did you 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! Sometimes called Cowboy Casseroles, it's 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 tater tots 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, although that is an excellent variation.
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. I've also included some of the many variations this casserole has gone through over the years, just in case you may want to try something a little different.
Perfect for toting to a potluck, but I wrote this in a smaller version here for a 9 x 9 inch baking dish, so you'll want to double it for that.
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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 cooking 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. Double for a 9 x 13 inch casserole.
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. Substitute cooked and crumbled bacon for the sausage.
Bacon Ranch Tater Tot Casserole: Prepare as for classic casserole, stirring in one packet of dry ranch dressing mix in with the soup mixture and adding in 4 slices of cooked and crumbled bacon. Assemble and bake as above.
Bacon Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole: Prepare as for classic casserole, except substitute condensed cheddar cheese soup for the cream soup and mix with one cup of sour cream, omit sausage and adding in 4 slices of cooked and crumbled bacon. Assemble and bake as above.
Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Casserole: Prepare as for classic casserole except substitute one can of sloppy joe sauce (like Manwich) for the cream soup and water or beef broth for the milk. Assemble and bake as above.
BBQ Beef Tater Tot Casserole: Prepare as above, except substitute 1 cup barbecue sauce and 1 can undrained Rotel style diced tomatoes for the cream soup and milk. Season meat with 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 1 teaspoon chili powder. Add a can of drained Mexican style corn, if desired.
Taco Tater Tot Casserole: Prepare as above, except substitute 1/3 cup water, 1 small can diced green chilies and 1 cup salsa or 1 can drained Rotel style diced tomatoes for the cream soup and milk. May also use a can of red enchilada sauce for the salsa or tomatoes. Omit sausage and season ground beef with 1 packet dry taco seasoning, or a homemade substitute. May also stir in 1 can of drained and rinsed, pinto or black beans and/or a can of drained Mexican style corn, if desired. Before serving, garnish with shredded lettuce, chopped avocado, sliced jalapeno, chopped tomatoes, shredded Mexican style cheese, sliced black olives, sliced green onion, chopped raw sweet onion, chopped fresh cilantro and/or other desired taco toppings. Serve with sour cream and salsa at the table.
Veggie Tater Tot Casserole: Add a layer of vegetables (about 1 cup) thawed if frozen, drained if canned. Good choices are green beans, peas, corn and mixed vegetables. Assemble and bake as above.
Breakfast Tater Tot Casserole: Substitute a 1 pound roll of cooked, crumbled hot breakfast sausage (like Jimmy Dean) and 4 slices of cooked crumbled bacon for the ground beef/smoked sausage. Omit cream soup and beat 1 cup of milk with 4 large eggs. Assemble and bake as above.
Classic Tater Tot Casserole: Omit meats and increase shredded cheese to 1 cup, stirring 1/2 cup into the soup mixture along with 1 cup of sour cream. Add tater tots to casserole dish, pouring soup mixture on top. Top with remaining cheese.
Beef and Sausage Hash Brown Casserole: Substitute a small bag of frozen, shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed, layering half of them in the bottom of the casserole dish. Prepare meat mixture as above and pour over the top, adding the remaining hash browns to the top of the casserole. Bake as above.
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