You will need one large (12″ x 18″ x 3″) pyrex baking dish; if you don’t have one, go to your favorite quality supermarket and get one when you pick up the rest of these ingredients!
This is a VERY flexible dish. It is easily a dozen, maybe even dozens of recipes all in one. The flexibility comes from its simplicity. Take a basic casserole concept and arrange it around any meat you choose. I suppose you could go vegetarian with it using portabella mushrooms, I’ve just never tried it. I have used the shredded meat of a whole chicken, beef tips (I cheated), cubed ham, sausage, turkey (easy to find after Thanksgiving), lots of stuff.
I have not tried seafood and I doubt it would work here.
RELAX! There’s a lot to do here, but it only takes about 30 minutes. If stuff is sitting on the counter cooling for a while, don’t worry; it’s all going back into the oven at the end.
1 pound of the meat of your choice (pre-cooked is best, ready for the oven is second choice)
12 oz of Heinz Homestyle gravy or similar that corresponds to the meat
1 large bag of large tater tots
3 16 oz bags of mixed frozen veggies (I get the microwaveable bags)
1 family sized can of condensed cream of mushroom soup (20 some-odd ounces)
Preheat your oven per the baking instructions on your tater-tots bag. Arrange a layer of tater-tots in the bottom of the baking dish and put them in the oven for however long the bag says.
While those are baking, microwave your veggies; one bag at a time works best. Leave them in their bags for now.
While the microwave is running, shred the meat off your pre-cooked chicken or cube your ham or fry your bacon or sausage or whatever – 3 bags of veggies means you have 15 minutes to do this – no problem! If you use the beef tips idea above, you might want to cut them into smaller bits now while you have the time.
Thoroughly mix your cream of mushroom soup, gravy, and one gravy jar full of water in a big enough bowl.
If you used the beef tips idea above, add the gravy from that here and cut the water in half.
Watch your oven time! Your tater tots should be about ready to come out just about the time that last bag of veggies comes out. Leave the oven on.
Spread all 3 bags of veggies over the tater tots. Arrange your meat over the veggies. Pour your gravy mix over the casserole. Put it in the oven for 30 minutes; everything is already cooked, you’re just heating it well so the gravy can flow down through it and the air pockets can bubble out.
After 30 minutes, remove the casserole, turn off the oven, and let the casserole cool for 5 minutes before serving.
This is where this dish gets fun (yes, guys, it is fun to cook when your victim’s/I-mean-guests actually enjoy your food)! Between the meat choices and the embellishments below (send me any easy-for-a-man ideas you would like to add), you look like a genius; look at all the different kinds of casserole you know how to make!
– Replace one bag of mixed vegetables with a bag of steamed broccoli florets – you may have to cut them up small after the microwave. Keep the stems.
– Sprinkle French’s Fried Onion toppers on the casserole before baking.
– Steam a bag of SPLIT green-beans and arrange on top of your casserole before baking – you may have to split them lengthwise yourself after the microwave. (You’re a man! Anything involving a knife you can do!)
– Sprinkle bacon bits on top before baking (6 oz or about 6 strips broken up is good!)
– If you use chorizo for your meat, try a bag of 4 cheese mexican blend on top before baking