This recipe 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. 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? You just want to play host! To make it less stressful, you can use pre-packaged brand-name gravies, taters and meats.
Stuff You’ll Need:
- flat metal baking sheet
- 9″ x 13″ x 2″ Pyrex casserole dish
- 2 quart microwave-safe bowl
- knife (any large, non-serrated kitchen knife)
- Possible additional requirements:
- Cutting board (if you use regular potatoes or are dicing ham or chopping some other meat)
- Any large bowl (if you are using regular potatoes)
- Medium or large frying pan (if the meat is not already cooked)
- Wooden spoon (to break-up/stir the meat while browning)
- Slotted spoon (if you go with regular potatoes)
- Serving spatula – you won’t need this until it’s time to serve your masterpiece.
What goes in it:
- 2 pounds of potatoes (you will need to dice these – instructions below)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- OPTIONAL: SUBSTITUTE one 28 to 32 oz. bag of large tater tots instead of the potatoes and olive oil – this will add salt!
- 3 bags of microwave-in-bag mixed vegetables
- 1 pound of the meat of your choice from the butcher section (alternately, the freezer-isle has lots of tempting choices just down from the pizza):
- Ground pork (or sausage. You can even use pre-packaged breakfast sausage – regular, hot, or whatever you choose – however, major brand sausage will add salt!)
- Ground turkey or beef (if there are religious restrictions – you and God need to stay tight!)
- diced ham – I recommend using grocery-store brand ham (some stores have ham pre-diced, though I find it to be chopped a little too small – and major-brand ham in any format will add salt!)
- chicken (I like to buy the roasted special at the supermarket deli!)
- beef tips or strips
- 2 x 10-ish oz cream of mushroom soup
- 12 oz jar or mix package of gravy that agrees with your chosen meat (chicken, pork, beef,…)
- OPTIONAL: a casserole topping such as:
- 6 – 8 oz crispy fried onions
- 6 – 8 oz well-cooked string beans
- 6 – 8 oz shredded cheese of your choice (parmesan goes well with chicken, for instance)
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 you follow directions, this is easy stuff and you’ll be done working in 30 minutes start to finish!
IFF you are using produce-isle whole potatoes, now is the time to prepare them! Lay one flat on your cutting board. Cut straight down through the top length-wise to divide it in half. Slice each of these length-wise so you end up with four long “slices” of potato. Slice these in half length-wise so you have eight long potato “fingers.” Stack these together and cut across them in 1/4″ inch segments. Put the diced potatoes in a bowl with the olive oil and toss/mix to ensure all sides of all bits are covered. Set aside to allow oil to drain.
Preheat the oven to 425 fahrenheit.
While the oven is heating, make sure the meat is cooked. I like precooked ham, microwavable beef tips, fully cooked 5 buck cluck, etc. If you need to microwave beef tips or something, do that now! If you are using sausage, ground pork, or beef, see How to Brown Meat. 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.
Next (while the oven is still heating), arrange the diced potatoes or tater tots in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes (or until medium brown). IFF you used regular potatoes, use the slotted spoon to drain as much of the olive oil as possible; excess oil will drip in the oven and you will have have to clean it! NOTE: Don’t cheat and use the pyrex dish for this – the high sides will prevent the potatoes from crisping. While they will still cook and the dish will still be edible, crisping the potatoes on a baking sheet first adds texture to the dish that will impress your guests.
While the potatoes 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 like that, you get to relax a bit.
When the last bag of veggies is steamed, check the potatoes – they ought to be medium brown by now. Take them out and reset the oven for 350.
Put the gravy mix in the microwave and set for 5 minutes, the warmer the better (you want this to run freely down between the veggies and potatoes).
Arrange the potatoes 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.
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. Optionally, change the oven to broil for the final minute to crisp/brown your topping.
Turn the oven off.
Remove your casserole from the oven and place on top of the stove (hot casserole may damage your counter-top). Let the casserole stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. This allows it to “set-up” so that it looks better when served.
Voila! You now know at least a dozen casserole recipes (several meats (beef, chicken, ham or pork) times several toppings (crisp unions, string beans, shredded 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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