This recipee was inspired by a dish I was introduced to by the honoree of this site, Frank. I’d never had it before he entertained a bunch of us with it. I’m naming this version after me to avoid tarnishing his reputation in the kitchen. He used the traditional mashed potatoes and did all the work normally expected; I’ve bachelorized it (surprise!) consistent with my dear love of spending lots of time in the kitchen (not).
NOTE: This is bachelor cooking – not haute cuisine. It’s about food easy enough for the untried “chef” to make without being overwhelmed and still make a dish his guests want to eat more of after the first serving. I use the microwavable veggies and other shortcuts. Who wants kitchen-stress? I just want to play host!
What goes in it:
- 1 large bag of Ore Ida® Tater Tots (or similar)
- 3 bags of Birds Eye® Mixed Vegetables (or similar)
- 1 pound of the meat of your choice, such as:
- Jimmy Dean’s® or Pepperidge Farms® sausage (regular, hot, or whatever you choose – I use hot) (Use ground turkey or beef if there are religious restrictions – you and God need to stay tight!)
- diced ham (some stores have it pre-diced, though I find it to be chopped a little too small)
- chicken (I like to buy the 5-buck-cluck on Wednesdays at Lunds – all I have to do is tear the meat off it!)
- HORMEL® Slow Simmered Beef Tips & Gravy
- 16 oz cream of mushroom soup
- 12 oz Heinz Home Style® (or similar) gravy that agrees with your chosen meat (chicken, pork, beef,…)
- OPTIONAL: a casserole topping such as:
- 6 oz French’s® Crispy Fried Onions
- 8 oz shredded cheese of your choice (parmesan goes well with chicken, for instance)
Stuff You’ll Need:
- flat metal baking sheet
- 9″x13″x2″ Pyrex casserole dish
- 2 quart microwave-safe bowl
- knife (any kitchen knife)
- Possible additional requirements:
- Cutting board (if you are dicing ham or chopping some other meat)
- Medium or large frying pan (if the meat is not already cooked)
- Wooden spoon (to break-up/stir the meat while frying)
- Serving spatula – you won’t need this until it’s time to serve your masterpiece.
What to do:
Trust me. I have worked all this out so it takes up the minimum amount of your time. If you got everything I told you to get, and if you follow directions, this is easy stuff!
First, preheat the oven to 350 fahrenheit.
Second (while the oven is heating), make sure the meat is cooked. I like precooked ham, microwavable beef tips, fully cooked 5 buck cluck, etc. My favorite version of this dish is with hot seasoned sausage, which needs to be cooked. Use the frying pan and the wooden spoon and cook the meat until all the pink is GONE (guys, this is not steak dinner, this is casserole – no pink!). Turn off the stove-top, set the meat aside. If you need to microwave beef tips or something, do that now!
Next (while the oven is still heating), arrange the tater tots in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes (or until medium brown). NOTE: Don’t cheat and use the pyrex dish for this – the high sides will prevent the tots from crisping. While the tots will still cook and the dish will still be edible, crisping the tots on a baking sheet first adds texture to the dish that will impress your guests.
While the tots are cooking, microwave the three bags of veggies one at a time. It takes 5-7 minutes depending on microwave power to steam the veggies in their bag, 3 bags takes about 20 minutes if you include the time it takes you to switch the bags in and out – just about enough time for your tater-tots to be done! DON’T get excited, just trust me. Cook the veggies one bag at a time…
While the veggies are steaming, pour the gravy and the cream of mushroom soup in the bowl. Fill the gravy jar(s) half full of water, put the lid pack on, shake vigorously for 10 seconds, use the contents of the gravy jar(s) to rinse the cream of mushroom soup can(s), then pour that into the bowl. Mix thoroughly. Set aside.
While the veggies are still steaming (the gravy mix only took about 45 seconds) prepare the meat. Dice your ham, break-up your sausage, tear the chicken meat off the carcase and break that up, whatever you need to do to have your cooked meat in small bits ready to spread over the casserole.
If you went with microwaveable beef tips or something, don’t sweat it. You get to relax a bit.
When the last bag of veggies is steamed, check the tater tots – they ought to be medium brown by now. Take the taters out, leave the oven on!
Arrange the tater tots in the bottom of the casserole dish in a single layer. Cut open the bags of veggies and spread them evenly over the taters. Distribute the meat over the veggies.
Heat the gravy mix very warm in the microwave, the warmer the better. You want this to run freely down between the veggies and tater tots! Pour the warm gravy mix evenly over the entire casserole. DO NOT overfill the casserole – cleaning the oven is NOT fun.
If you are using a topping such as onion crisps or shredded cheese, put that on now. This can stick up over the top of the casserole dish a little – not to worry.
Put the casserole into the oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Put the casserole on top of the stove (hot casserole may damage your counter top). Turn the oven off. Let the casserole stand of 5-10 minutes before serving. This helps it to “set-up” so that it looks better when served.
Voila! You now know at least 12 casserole recipes (beef, chicken, ham or sausage times crisp unions, cheese or no topping). The more you make this, the more familiar you will get with each version. Feel free to change ingredients and add seasonings etc.
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