Tator Tot Hotdish {2 ways…with and without canned soup!}

Tator Tot Hotdish is one my husband’s top dinner requests. Here is my tried and true recipe, with and without canned soup!

Tator Tot Hotdish {2 ways...with and without canned soup!} - afarmgirlsdabbles.com

Today is the last day of April. We’re one-third of the way through 2014 already. How did this happen? And why am I craving the comforts of hotdishes and braises and cozy soups? As I flip the calendar to May, I yearn to be munching on cool fresh greens and sipping beverages in tall glasses filled with ice. But, no. Here I sit, in the 36° early morning hours of yet one more overcast rainy day in Minnesota. I hate to complain. I always aim not to complain. But, Lord, please bring some sunshine and warmth our way!

In the meantime…we’ll focus this week on what feels good and nurturing for the hand we’ve been dealt. Ok? Are you with me?

I posted a photo on Instagram and Facebook awhile back of tator tot hotdish, one of my husband’s top meal requests. And I was inundated with requests for my recipe. Up until this point, I had never relied on a recipe for this favored dish of my Midwest culture. I’ve just used a few basic ingredients and thrown it together. But I promised my readers that I’d get serious and write it down to share. So here it is. Tator Tot Hotdish {2 ways…with and without canned soup!}.

Tator Tot Hotdish {2 ways...with and without canned soup!} - afarmgirlsdabbles.com

Blake was completely skeptical when I told him I was going to come up with a homemade gravy base for my tator tot hotdish. He questioned, “Why mess with a good thing?” Because, I told him, I was convinced that I could create for him a tator tot hotdish that tasted even more amazing than the one I’ve always made with canned cream of mushroom soup. His questioning fueled my fire. I was going to do this!

This homemade version of tator tot hotdish (except for the tator tots…I’ve not yet attempted those from scratch yet!) is soooooooo good! The gravy’s texture is perfectly creamy, less oddly gelatinous than the canned soup version, and its flavor is cleaner, too. Hatti and Tessa and I agreed that this new hotdish was superior to the canned version, as our family scrutinized both compositions side by side in a weekday supper taste test. But Blake, holding fast to his love for canned tradition, said that he’d eat either one just the same. I think he was secretly surprised that I actually made his beloved tator tot hotdish without opening a can, and got it to taste that good!

I must give Blake credit for all the cheese you see melted over the top of the hotdish. Cheese makes everything better. That’s the motto that Blake brought into our marriage, anyway, almost 15 years ago. Because of his bright idea, I now always add a good helping of sharp cheddar to the top of my tator tot hotdishes. It’s definitely a good thing.

For those of you who aren’t up for making your own gravy (C’mon, it’s easy! Please give it a try!), I’ve also included a second recipe that utilizes canned soup. It does save time in preparation, and will still yield a fabulous tator tot hotdish. Just promise me you won’t skip that amazing top layer of golden cheddar!

Tator Tot Hotdish {2 ways...with and without canned soup!}

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients:

Recipe #1 - tator hotdish with homemade gravy:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 c. diced yellow onion (about 1/2 of a large onion)
  • 8 oz. chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1 T. Frank's RedHot Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 2 T. chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 16 oz. frozen mixed vegetables (I like to use a mix of corn, carrots, green beans, and peas)
  • 2 lbs. frozen tator tots (I usually use just a bit less)
  • 6 to 8 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded

Recipe #2 - tator hotdish with canned soup:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 c. diced yellow onion (about 1/2 of a large onion)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2  10-oz. cans Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup (I prefer the regular soup for this, not the reduced fat or sodium)
  • 3 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. Frank's RedHot Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley, divided
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 16 oz. frozen mixed vegetables (I like to use a mix of corn, carrots, green beans, and peas)
  • 2 lbs. frozen tator tots (I usually use just a bit less)
  • 6 to 8 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded

Directions:

Recipe #1 - tator tot hotdish with homemade gravy:

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large cast iron skillet (mine is 12" in diameter, with tall sides), brown beef over medium to medium-high heat, breaking up any large chunks. Once beef is browned, remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the beef fat, and then add 2 tablespoons of the butter to the beef fat in the pan. Once butter is melted, add the onion, mushrooms, and garlic. Stir to incorporate. Cook until the onions are transparent and the mushrooms are nicely softened, about 6 to 10 minutes.

Now slide everything in the skillet to one side. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to other side of skillet. When the butter is melted, sprinkle the flour over the butter, whisking all the while (a flat whisk works awesome here!). Draw in as much butter, beef fat, and juices from the vegetables as you can, into the flour. Cook for a couple minutes, until the mixture is bubbling and slightly browned.

Add soy sauce, Frank's RedHot Sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper to the gravy side of the pan. Whisk and cook for 1 minute. Then slowly add the milk while you whisk and scrape the bottom of the pan. Once this mixture is smoothed out, bring the mushroom mixture into the milk mixture, and then add the reserved cooked beef. Stir to incorporate. Cook until thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Then stir in sour cream, plus 1 tablespoon of parsley and 1 tablespoon of thyme. Next add the frozen vegetables and stir to incorporate. Level mixture out in the pan. Then top with frozen tator tots. Place pan in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with cheese and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Place pan back into the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Then place pan underneath the broiler for a few minutes, until tator tots and cheese are browned to your liking. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley and 1 tablespoon of thyme. Serve hot. I like to eat mine with ketchup or Frank's RedHot Sauce, or a mixture of these two condiments.

Recipe #2 - tator tot hotdish with canned soup:

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large cast iron skillet (mine is 12" in diameter, with tall sides), brown beef over medium to medium-high heat, breaking up any large chunks. Once beef is browned, remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon. Discard beef fat and then add butter to the pan. Once butter is melted, add the onion and garlic. Stir to incorporate. Cook until the onions are transparent and nicely softened, about 6 to 10 minutes.

Add cream of mushroom soup, soy sauce, Frank's RedHot Sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to fully incorporate and then cook until the mixture is warmed and bubbling, stirring regularly. Add sour cream, half of the parsley and thyme, and the salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate. Then stir in the frozen vegetables. Level mixture out in the pan. Then top with frozen tator tots. Place pan into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle evenly with cheese and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Place pan back into the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Then place pan underneath the broiler for a few minutes, until tator tots and cheese are browned to your liking. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining parsley and thyme. Serve hot. I like to eat mine with ketchup or Frank's RedHot Sauce, or a mixture of these two condiments.

both recipes from a farmgirl's dabbles