Well, not exactly. Many moons ago while making this casserole for my then boyfriend, now husband, our roommate walked into the kitchen and saw what I was preparing for dinner. He looked at me with all seriousness and said, "Oh how the mighty have fallen.." I always think of that day when I find myself making something that I can't stand with ingredients that I have to drive to the next town to purchase so that I don't run into anyone that I know.
Tater tot casserole, or what Family Circle magazine called 'Busy Woman's Casserole' in the 1970's. This is a dish from my childhood. Something that I know was easy and filling, and has all of the necessary ingredients for dinner. Protein, dairy, starch, and a vegetable. I have fond-ish memories of this dinner, what could be better when you are a kid than dinner that consisted of hamburger and tater tots? As I grew up, and found that this particular casserole was a ghastly combination of fat and sodium, let alone fake food, I cherished the humor that was tater tot casserole.
So, how on earth did I find myself STILL making this gut bomb? Well, that is actually easy. Men love tater tots. While Westley and I went on our first road trip up the coast to Oregon we stopped at a little pub that served tater tots. While we were enjoying a beer and tots, I told Westley all about this crazy concoction that my family ate. With all seriousness from across the table, eyes glazed over, Westley asked me if I could PLEASE make him this gem when we returned from our trip. I sort of thought he was joking, until about a week later. Westley worked on my motorcycle as a favor and in return I offered to make us dinner. His request was what you would suspect, tater tot casserole. Blech.
These are be basic ingredients of Tater tot casserole. Ground beef, enough to cover a casserole dish, a can each of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup, cheddar cheese. I suppose you could purchase pre-grated cheese, but this was all I had on hand. I should have tried harder. So, you take the ground beef and press it into the casserole dish. Open the soups and plop on top of beef, spread evenly. Sprinkle cheddar cheese, you know, I bet if you used Velveeta you could really rock the TT Casserole. See, I just don't have it! Now place tater tots on top of cheese in any decorative pattern you choose. Bake at 350 for about an hour. Viola.
Tater tot casserole. MMMM.....if you are into that kind of thing.
I used to tell my single girlfriends that the way to their partners heart, in more ways than one if you ask the cardiologists in the audience, is to make a tater tot casserole. There is something about the deep fried gems, and yes, they are deep fried before they hit the freezer section, that make eyes glaze over and warm childhood memories return. I do have nice memories of my husband loving this dish and sharing it with his friends. Friends often host 'theme' parties in an attempt to make tater tot casserole socially acceptable. I do find it hysterical that when it all is said and done, the one dish that will truly be memorable will be this mess.