I was either starting to get over my cold, or I was in the eye of the storm. Either way, I had a moment of not-feeling miserable, and I thought I would go for some comfort food. So I turned to the Western Dubuque Marching Band Cookbook and decided to make Tater Tot Casserole.
Tater Tot Casserole Recipe:
1. Adjust the recipe: The original recipe was beautiful in the mathematical sense. 1 of this. 1 of that. 1 of something else. But I wanted to make a half batch, so I started out browning half a pound of ground turkey.
2. Adjust the recipe again: The recipe called for 1 can of mushroom soup. This posed two problems. (1) Did the recipe mean cream of mushroom soup or regular mushroom soup? Casseroles from this period usually require cream of mushroom soup, but they also call for it specifically. The recipe was unclear. (2) We went to Trader Joe’s the last time we went grocery shopping. I could find butternut squash soup, fire roasted red pepper and tomato soup, organic corn chowder, lobster bisque, veal stock, and about a million other kinds of fancy soups. But no mushroom soup, condensed or otherwise. So I chopped up about half a container of baby bellas, sauteed them, and then added them to a runny bechamel.
3. Adjust the recipe some more: the recipe called for 1 can of green beans. But I couldn’t find canned green beans at Trader Joe’s. So we took about half a pound of regular green beans, blanched them for a couple minutes, and then chopped them up into bite-sized pieces.
4. Mix in casserole: I had a new mini casserole that I picked up the last time I was at Wal-Mart. This would be perfect. I have no idea what the dimensions are, but it says that it is a 6C container.
I mixed up the turkey, the mushroom bechamel, and the green beans. I double checked the recipe to make sure that I wasn’t supposed to add cheese, breadcrumbs, eggs, or any other kind of binder. I was a little nervous because the mix looked like a weird soggy cereal left in a bowl for about a week.
5. Line up the tots: The recipe very tersely tells you to “top with a bag of tater tots.” I took this to mean that I was supposed to line them up as neatly as possible. Although six rows of six tater tots would maximize coverage, tater tot bags always tell you to ensure that there is enough space for proper cooking. So, I did alternating and staggered rows of 6 tater tots and 5 tater tots. Thus, you will need exactly 33 tater tots for my version of this recipe.
6. Bake: 350 degrees for 1 hour.
7. Eat: I let this cool for about 5 minutes afterwards. I cut into it, and it pretty much fell apart into a mush. Letting it sit for the time it took for us to go for seconds didn’t help either.
But the taste was quite satisfying. I added a little bit of salt and pepper to mine. And my wife reached for the ketchup. Apparently, she had eaten tater tot casserole before. And when she had it, it was held together with velveeta. I think the next time I make this, I will add some cheddar to the mushroom bechamel.
This was a very plain meal – underwhelming and yet surprisingly satisfying. Tater tots are always delicious, and over the course of the hour they spent in the oven, they got supremely crispy. Green beans are my favorite vegetable and the mushrooms kept the turkey from drying out too much. By the time I finished my second helping, my brain was feeling that mini-high that people say that you get when you eat a ton of fast food. Except I didn’t feel bloated.