Monday, May 12, 2008

Tater Tot Casserole: a photo essay

As I said over on Ravelry, I am not willing to judge Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar's reproductive choices. I am, however, totally willing to judge their culinary choices. Because I will do almost anything on a dare, I have made the Duggar family Tater Tot casserole recipe. I didn't follow the recipe exactly: I added some veggies, used ground beef instead of ground turkey, and saved a little bit of money by using one big can of cream of mushroom soup instead of a little can of cream of mushroom and a little can of cream of celery. But it's close enough. Here, in more detail than you probably want, is a report.

First of all, let it be said that Tater Tot casserole is not especially inexpensive. I halved the recipe, because unlike Jana Duggar, the oldest Duggar daughter and the designated Duggar family dinner cooker, I am not cooking for a family of 20. Even so, the ingredients cost me $15. That's almost twice as much as the big vat of veggie chili I made last night, and the veggie chili had actual nutritional value. It's true that I bought brand name ingredients, and I could have saved a little bit by buying generic. (They actually don't have generic tater tots at my supermarket. They only have Oneida Tater Tots. That should tell you something about the kind of supermarket at which I shop.) But this wouldn't be a bargain recipe even if you did get the cheapest ingredients possible.

What it is, however, is very quick to make. Even with the extra step of chopping up veggies, it was a cinch, and the cleanup was pretty easy, too. I didn't time it, but I'd say that my total active cooking time was maybe 15 minutes. Maybe I should fire off an email to suggest to Jana Duggar, whose email I found via google, that she could add the veggies without appreciably increasing the amount of work involved. I chopped the vegetables during Gossip Girl commercial breaks. I doubt there's a lot of Gossip Girl going on in the Duggar household, but perhaps she could chop some carrots, celery and onions in between reading Bible verses.

So I chopped up a large onion, two carrots, and two stalks of celery.

I heated up some olive oil and sautéed my veggies.

Then I scooped the veggies out of the pan, browned the beef, and stuck the veggies back in the pan with the beef. I cooked it all together for a few more minutes.

Then it was time to scoop the meat mixture into my lasagna dish.

I covered the meat with Tater Tots, mixed up my soup and my evaporated milk, and stuck that on top. Note that at this point, the casserole looked disgusting. I have no idea what cat puke actually looks like, but that's how I imagine it looking.

Then I popped the casserole into the oven and watched an episode of Battlestar Gallactica. I suspect the Duggars skip that last bit Perhaps they could read more Bible verses.

An hour later, it was time to take the casserole out of the oven.

I cut it, and it was a little too runny.

So I popped it back in the oven to see if I could get it to firm up a bit. In the meantime, I tried my runny casserole. And I have to say, it was delicious. It had the kind of sickening yummy quality that food has when it derives its deliciousness from being made of fat and salt. You'll see that I cut myself a pretty small piece, and when I tried to eat a little more I felt vaguely ill. In small amounts, though, it's pretty awesome.

The Tater Tots are definitely not crispy, by the way, but you kind of don't even focus on the fact that they're Tater Tots. They're just a soft layer of something potato-y on top of the ground beef.

It did firm up a bit after another ten minutes or so in the oven. Since I've never made a casserole with cream of mushroom soup before, I don't yet know how to gauge its doneness. I think my oven runs a little hot, if anything, so I would plan to possibly bake it for a little more than an hour.

So that's the verdict. As I suspected, the Duggar family's Tater Tot casserole is indeed made of yummy. It's not something that I'd eat on a regular basis, because you probably couldn't come up with a less healthy recipe if you tried. But if you ever need a super quick and easy recipe that will feed a crowd and you don't care at all about nutrition, you could do worse.

1 comment:

jaybirdknits said...

You are a brave, brave woman. And I think I just threw up in my mouth...