Monday, May 21, 2012

Tater Tot Heaven

You know those days where everything just seems way too hard. You’re hungry but you’re also kinda broke so ordering pizza for the third night in a row just aint gonna happen. Cooking an elaborate meal is out of the question as well. Times like these I usually just end up eating a bag of taco flavored Doritos (even though they kind of smell like vomit) and then clutch my stomach in disgust for the rest of the night.

Whether it be a hangover, lady pains, manic depression, post outpatient surgery, or you’re just a lazy person, some days you need something comfortable and simple to eat. You know, one of those dishes made of crushed tater tots, canned soup, and lots of cheese that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

When I was a kid my mother and father worked a lot so sometimes it was up to me to figure out my own dinner situation. I loved to cook. I would gather an armful of delicious ingredients that seemed like they would be even more delicious all piled together. 

Sometimes things would work out nicely such as the first time I inadvertently made tater tot casserole. Tasty! However, once in a while things would go really, really wrong. Once I dumped a frozen box of egg rolls on a microwave pizza and smothered and covered it with a can of chili and Velveeta cheese.

I know what you’re saying: “But Violet, that sounds amazingly delicious!” I know right, I thought so too. However, after a few minutes in the microwave the moisture from the ‘who knows how old’ freezer burned egg rolls leaked all over the place and turned the chili and cheese into a pinkish brown sludge that covered the entire microwave. Even still I ate some, unhappily scraping the crud out with a big spoon.

Aside from going hungry that night my mother was pretty unhappy about the fact that pizza-egg roll surprise was covering the majority of her kitchen. Still, much to her credit, she urged me to keep on cooking my little heart out.

Here's my version of Tater Tot Casserole. It's so delicious and I promise that you don't even need to be high to enjoy it. 

Tater Tot Casserole

1 lb ground beef
1/4 lb of bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery rib, diced
2 scallions, sliced
2 Tsp Cajun seasoning
salt and pepper
1 bag of tater tots (or 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and grated)
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
a few dashes of hot sauce
1 can of cream of mushroom (or celery) soup (or 1/2 lb diced shiitake mushrooms
simmered in 1 cup of heavy cream for 20 minutes, plus 2 Tbsp sour cream)

For this recipe I give you the down and dirty version with an option to make it more classy and refined (as refined as tater tot casserole can be). I myself prefer the classic white trash version. That’s how I roll.

1. Preheat oven to 375F. In a sauté pan over medium high heat cook the bacon until the fat renders. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towel.

2. Cook the onion, celery, and garlic in the bacon fat (about 3-4 minutes until soft). In the same pan, brown the ground beef.

3. Add the scallion, Cajun seasoning, cream of mushroom soup (or the shiitake mushrooms with cream and sour cream. Add a little corn starch slurry if it’s too watery). Season with salt and pepper (careful the canned soup has a lot of salt so taste before adding more). Stir to combine.

4. In a 2 quart baking dish, add the soup and meat layer. Then top it off with a layer of tater tots.

5. Cook uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes. Pull the dish out and sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top. Cook for another 15 minutes. Serve outside with no shoes on and a nice cold Bud light. Dang that’s tasty! xoxo

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