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Popular in grade school cafeterias throughout the midwest during the 1960’s, the Tater Tot casserole has in my opinion, unfairly received a bad rap.  Many consider this dish nothing more than “trailer trash” food……………….. well if that’s the case……………then rent me a double-wide.

For me this gooey delight is a comfort food.  We all have them, widely differing for each of us, many of these favorites are based on where we grew up, or a favorite family recipe.  A meal that makes us feel good, like wearing a big fuzzy old sweater.  So on this snowy day what seemed appropriate was for me to make something in the oven that would not only toast up the house, but that I could easily enjoy wrapped up in my blanket watching a move.

The Tater Tot was created in 1956 by the Ore-Ida company in an attempt to find a way to use the left over slivers of potatoes from their other products.  They added some flour and spice to the chopped up remains, and pushed the mash through holes slicing pieces as they came out.  Originally the Tots were very inexpensive and sold poorly due to low perceived value, so the company raised the prices and the Tots began sell. Many companies now offer a similar product, Ore-Ida alone produces about 70 million pounds of these little nuggets each year.

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There are many versions of this “comfort” casserole, here is mine:

  • 1 pound ground sausage
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1½ cups frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 (10.75 oz) can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of ketchup
  • ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese (divided)
  • 3 cups frozen Tater-Tots

Cook sausage and onion in a skillet over medium-high heat until sausage is well browned, stirring to crumble the meat.  Pour off any excess oil.  Stir soup, ketchup and Worcestershire into skillet and add vegetables mixing well. Resist adding salt, the Worcestershire will offer plenty. Spoon the mixture into shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with half the cheese.  Cover with tater-tots and remaining cheese and a grind of black pepper.  Sprinkle with olive oil and bake at 425 degrees F for 25 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown. 

French version of the Tater Tot called the Croquette.

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