My roommate in collage used to make corn flake, Campbell’s soup and Velveeta cheese casseroles. I thought she was out of her mind. Like 90% of a recipe shouldn’t come out of a vacuum sealed package, right? But after seeing the world a bit, I’ve learned to look at foreign cultures differently. With complete cultural relativity I’d like to introduce you to the most famous casserole in the American Midwest.
Actually in the Midwest casseroles are called hot dishes. My friend Alex, who grew up in Michigan, is half Belgian, speaks a gaggle of languages, and has visited many many countries, introduced me to THE hot dish classic, tater tot casserole. This little baked number is a combo of ground beef, Campbell’s cream soup, shredded cheddar and tater tots. You had no idea, did you?
For those of you who don’t know, tater tots are processed potato nuggets that are often served at school lunches. The exterior is brown and crisp while the interior has the texture of a potato that’s been through a wood chipper. Once baked up in the casserole, the tots disintegrate into a single gooey layer covered in dairy and beef.
I have to be honest, tater tot casserole will not make my death-row dinner list, but it’s good. It’s good like Wendy’s chicken nuggets are good or Pizza Hut is good. It’s good like Cheetos or Cool Ranch Doritos. There is something so wrong about this dish that it’s right. It will fill you up, keep you warm and remind you that some things can only be found right here in the U.S. of A.
Tater Tot Casserole
1 pound ground beef
1 can (approx. 10 ounces) cream of chicken condensed soup
1 can (approx. 10 ounces) cream of mushroom (or celery) condensed soup
1 1/2 cup milk or sour cream or mixture of the two
1 package (1 pound) frozen tater tots
1/4 pound each: shredded Cheddar and Colby Jack cheese (or 1/2 pound of either type)
Preheat oven to 375 F. Brown ground beef in medium saucepan; drain. Add soup and milk. Mix together over med-heat. Add 3/4 of cheese and mix until melted. At the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish, arrange tater tots in single layer.
Pour meat/soup/sour cream mixture over the top, spreading evenly over all tater tots. Sprinkle remainder of cheese over the top. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until center is bubbling and top cheese is golden brown.
As a final note, I’d like to thank George for his casserole post. Thanks for the inspiration.