Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bridging the gap: Homemade tater tot hot dish

Apparently (according to my mom's recipe book) one of my most-requested meals when I was a child was my mom's tater tot hot dish. My hubby had never had the experience, and when I finally made it for him four or five years ago, he was furious (not really): How could I have kept such goodness from him?!? Needless to say, it became a household favorite. But with the ingredient list: fatty ground beef, three cans of condensed soup, and something called "browning and seasoning sauce," I would only make it once or twice a year.

One night a few months ago, I was thinking that tater tot hot dish sounded good, but we didn't have any of the ingredients (except tater tots). I wondered...could I make it from scratch, without all of the soups? I looked on line, and was surprised that I couldn't really find any recipe that didn't contain the condensed soups or some other processed ingredient.

Hm...what if I started with a homemade cream of mushroom soup? What if I used fresh veggies in addition to frozen? What if...the what ifs multiplied, and I made a small pan, warning my family that it might be totally yucky. Guess what? It wasn't! It was way too soupy and a little bland, but I kept working on the recipe. And then, two weeks ago, tater tot hotdish was on the menu again...and I couldn't find the recipe anywhere. I looked everywhere. Finally, when we were down to the wire, I said, "Well, let me try writing it down from memory..." and it was the best it's ever been. It is so much more flavorful than the original (sorry, Mom!) :), with bright flavor from the fresh veggies, and a richness from the mushroom soup. It does have a lot of butter and a bit of cream, and I could probably try reducing them some, but it is just. so. good.

Homemade tater tot hot dish
by Abby :)

for the mushroom soup:
3 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, minced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 8-ounce package mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 c chicken stock
1/2 c cream

for hot dish
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 16 or 20 oz package ground turkey
1 c frozen vegetables (I use peas and corn)
1 2-lb package tater tots (I don't use the whole package)

1. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add onion, carrot, celery, and mushrooms and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Add flour, salt, and pepper, and stir for 1 minute.
4. Whisk in chicken stock and cream and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and set aside.
5. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook the onion, carrot, and celery for 2 minutes. Add the turkey, salt, and pepper, and cook until turkey is brown.
6. Pour the meat mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish. Sprinkle the frozen veggies over the meat. Pour the soup over the meat and veggies. Place the tater tots on top.
7. Bake for 60 minutes at 350º.

In light of the fact that we're starting our unprocessed journey tomorrow, I have been thinking about how to make this favorite dish unprocessed. The only ingredient that doesn't fit the kitchen test is the tater tots. So tonight, I decided to cover a corner of the hot dish with some leftover mashed potatoes to see if it would be a workable substitution for the next month. Kind of a cross between tater tot hot dish and shepherd's pie.


  1. Or, if you're feeling really adventurous, you could make your own tots: (I subscribe to the website, so let me know if you want me to send you the recipe.) =)

  2. I totally thought you were going to say you'd made your own tater tots. But the mashed potato idea is clever and probably way easier. Do keep posting about this stuff!

  3. Wow, who knew??? Actually I did know about making your own cream of whatever soups so they don't have a metallic taste like the can they come in, etc. You did a great job on a recipe remake!