Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cheesy Tator Tot Casserole

Some things never get old.  Like Dolly Parton and tator tot casserole.  Who didn't get excited as a kid to find out that  tator tot casserole was on the dinner menu?  It's just a classic.  I bought a bag of tator tots a while ago because they were on sale, and I can't resist a good sale.  I decided that it would be way more awesome to make tator tot casserole than to just have plain old tator tots.

Unfortunately, I hadn't made tator tot casserole in years.  And by years, I mean not since my college days with my old roomie Stefanie.  Stefanie made a mean tator tot casserole (and her and her husband just had their first baby two days ago, so congratulations!!!).  I remembered the basics of tator tot casserole.  It is pretty simple, after all.  But I wasn't feeling overly confident in my ability to recreate Stefanie's yummy version which I had loved so much.  

So I went to my old-school cookbooks thinking that somewhere in those pages of good old comfort food and casserole recipes I was bound to find at least one tried-and-true tator tot casserole recipe.  I was wrong.  In all my cookbooks, I didn't have one tator tot casserole recipe.  I guess all those church ladies and farmer's wives assumed that anyone with a brain in their skull and an oven in their kitchen just knew how to make tator tot casserole.  The good news is that thanks to a little invention called the internet, I knew I could scrounge up a tasty recipe in no time.  So I got to searching.

And as usual, the internet proved to be too helpful by giving me more tator tot casserole recipes than I knew what to do with.  There are all kinds of versions out there, from the super basic to the borderline gourmet.  I wanted something that would be easy to make on a busy weekday, but that would still be tasty enough to enjoy despite the fact that I'm not 10 years old.  

After some searching, I found a recipe on allrecipes.com that looked pretty similar to the version I had previously enjoyed.  It was somewhere in the middle of the gamut of complexity.  I liked that this recipe added a few ingredients beyond just cream of mushroom soup to add flavor.  
And, of course, I changed a few things to make it suit my taste.  I decided to saute an onion to add to the mixture to give it a little boost of flavor, and some additional veggie power.  While I was increasing the veggies, I went ahead and threw two cans of green beans in my pan instead of just one.  One can just looked wimpy, and I'm no wimp!  And the most important thing to remember when making tator tot casserole, is that it has to be cheesy tator tot casserole.  The cheese makes this dish so delicious!

I was totally satisfied with how this cheesy tator tot casserole turned out.  It was easy to throw together, and it's hearty enough that it really can be a full meal all in one dish.  And with the few added ingredients it is something that adults and kids will happily eat.  It will not be years before I make this again!

Cheesy Tator Tot Casserole
1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp BBQ sauce
1 tsp ground pepper
2 cans green beans, drained
1 bag tator tots (I didn't use the whole bag)
6 slices American cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Brown ground beef; drain and rinse.  While beef is draining, saute onion in skillet over medium heat until tender.  Return beef to skillet and add cream of mushroom soup, Worcestershire sauce, and BBQ sauce.  Stir to combine.  Spread drained green beans over bottom of prepared cooking spray.  Top with meat mixture.  Top with tator tots.
Bake 15-20 minutes, or until tator tots are hot.  Cover with cheese slices and bake an additional 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted.  Allow to cool a few minutes before serving.
Serves 8-10.
Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

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