How is it that after 22 years in Minnesota, I have never made Tater Tot Hotdish? A serious travesty, to be sure! Truth be told, I had never even eaten Tater Tot Hotdish, but don't tell anyone or I might be sent packing back to Wisconsin. It dawned on me that perhaps I should give this dish, ubiquitous in Minnesota, some consideration. Not sure what "hotdish" is? Check out the definition. There is Minnesota written all over it. :)
I'm not overly fond of canned soup...so I made my own Cream of Mushroom.
Apparently, there are as many different ways of making a Tater Tot Hotdish as there are Minnesotans that make it. With cheese, without cheese, with vegetables, without vegetables, ground beef, ground turkey, or ground soy---it's all acceptable. One thing is certain, though--an authentic Tater Tot Hotdish has got to have cream of something soup and Tater Tots.
I began my Tater Tot Hotdish quest by looking it up on the Internet. At the top of the heap was a recipe from our own Senator Amy Klobuchar. It turns out that in 2010, Senator Al Franken invited members of Minnesota's congressional delegation to a hotdish competition. Amy Klobuchar's Taconite Tater Tot Hot Dish won the honors. I drew some of the inspiration for my recipe from her creation. You've gotta love something with Taconite in the title, no?
Amy Klobuchar's version had Pepper Jack Cheese, so I upped the ante by using not only the cheese, but also by using a little cayenne pepper in the soup.
Last weekend, we experienced some cool weather for the first time in many weeks. It was a perfect time for experimenting with my very own Tater Tot Hotdish. After some initial concern (the dish seemed to weigh 20 pounds when it went into the oven), we managed to finish and appreciate my efforts. The husband even gave it the thumbs up.
Tater Tot Hotdish
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 oz frozen French green beans, or enough to cover the bottom of a casserole dish
1 lb. ground chuck, cooked, crumbled, and drained
1 cup shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
1/2 ( 2 lb.) bag Tater Tots
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.; spray the bottom and sides of a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onions and saute until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and continue to cook for a minute or two (mixture will be very stiff). Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Add the cayenne pepper and the salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the soup is slightly thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.*
Spread the green beans evenly over the bottom of the casserole dish. Top the beans with the cooked ground chuck. Evenly pour the soup over the ground chuck, then sprinkle the cheese over the soup. Top the entire mixture with the Tater Tots. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbling and the tots are crisp.
*While it is my opinion that the homemade variety of the Cream of Mushroom Soup is a thousand times better than the canned version, you are free to sub a can of the cream soup of your choice. Simply mix in 1/2 cup of milk before you pour it over the ground beef.
So, there it is. My first Tater Tot Hotdish. Not bad, not bad at all. This is going to happen again, when the weather turns blustery. What comfort food do you make when it gets cold?