January 10th, 2011
Some good old comfort food
When the winter gets long and the temperature matches the stock market, you might need to lift your snowy spirits with some specialized Fargo-Moorhead comfort food? Well, it’s not expensive; it’s easy to make; and it’s a sure hit around the world (more about that later).
This is the tale of TT. C, Tater Tot Casserole. For years I made it for Fargo North sports teams: soccer, basketball, volleyball and swimming. It was simply inhaled. Positively the first thing to go on the buffet table. What is the special allure of this dish? My husband considers it a miracle if the casserole even makes it to the table without half the Tater Tots picked off. (You Tot pickers know who you are.) Do you ever wonder how the Tots are made? Like, maybe some assembly-line folks molding them into little cylindrical, bite-size pieces. Ore-Ida Fun Facts say the Tots are made from potato shreds left over from French fry production and they entered the scene in 1954. Maybe they are Red River Valley spuds?
The mystery remains, however, as to who made the first Tater Tot Casserole. The Tots have been featured on the Simpsons and South Park, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota served 1000 servings of the hot dish at her Minnesota inaugural party in D.C.
Low and behold, a picture of me holding up Tater Tot Casserole appeared recently on my daughter’s Face book. One friend responded, ‘What’s that thing she’s holding?’ Apparently, not everyone is in the know.
When I visited my daughters who formerly lived in Italy and the Republic of Georgia, and now in Germany and Scotland, the first thing they ask for is Tater Tot Casserole. Let me tell you, it’s not easy. Italy and Georgia are slow-food places; most everything is local and fresh. The Army base in Italy provided us with canned cream of mushroom soup. The market in Tbilisi provided us with some mystery meat that looked like ground beef, fresh green beans and potatoes. So we did our best. Neither place had Tots, however, so we punted and put potato slices on top of the casserole. No matter what the variation, it turned out great! An international delicacy.
Anyway, here’s the Midwestern basic recipe I use. Spread 1 lb. uncooked ground beef on the bottom of a casserole , add onion, salt and pepper to taste, add canned or frozen green beans, spread a can of cream of mushroom soup over the top, add a bag of Tater Tots. ‘Bake for 45 minutes to an hour (until meat is done) at 350 degrees.
I thought it might be fun to share variations on the theme of your favorite Tater Tot Comfort Casserole – maybe mom’s, dad’s, grandma’s or your own concoction. For example, I recently saw a TT.C recipe in a lakes country cookbook using venison. Maybe even a TT.C for vegetarians or a low-cal version. Send us your recipes, and let’s have some fun with our favorite comfort food. Perhaps you’ve found a global TTC in your travels. Who knows? It might become the secret training meal for Fargo Marathon Runners.