I’m afraid that I need to get something off my chest. A confession. An admission. I’m about to become . . . transparent.

Ok, here it comes. I took a dare.

Not only that, I took a dare mere days after having a big discussion with the kids about how they are never allowed to accept dares sight unseen. Truth or Dare was specifically mentioned as a game they were never allowed to play, and my speech was eloquent, edifying, and, let’s be honest, very full of wisdom.

And then I did it. I slipped. I fell. I took a dare without realizing its full implications, and now I’m obligated. “Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” and all that.   I am now my very own cautionary tale.

What did I commit to? Well I’ll tell you. Buckle up.

My husband dared me to make Tater Tot Casserole for dinner tonight.

It’s true. And I took the dare . . . and I’m afraid that I didn’t realize what I had let myself in for when I agreed to it. I had a sheltered childhood I’m afraid, and not only have I never tasted a Tater Tot Casserole, I had never even laid eyes on a Tater Tot Casserole. I had heard of it of course, and I figured I could whip up as good a Tater Tot Casserole as the next woman.

But just now I sat down at the computer to google up a recipe, and the full implications of my rash vow have officially come home to roost. Tater Tot Casserole appears to be, get this, ground beef, topped with a can of Cream of Whatever, topped with Tater Tots. And that’s all. As far as I can ascertain, there is no flavoring of any sort. Green beans are apparently mixed in for variety sometimes, and the really deluxe recipes included Velveeta cheese.

I gotta be honest with you, ladies. I’m scared. I’m frantically searching for anything that will get me out of this horrible deed. But I seem to be hemmed in. I’ve tried googling for “gourmet Tater Tot Casserole” in the hopes that something more appetizing will offer me some shred of hope. But like I said, when it comes to Tater Tot Casserole, green beans seem to be as gourmet as it gets. I’m pretty sure I’m beaten.

Any moment now I have to leave and trudge through the snow and slush and sleet and slop to the grocery store and purchase me some Cream of Despair and Ground Beef of Sorrow and some Tater Tots of Shame. Unless any of you can throw me a lifeline in the next half hour. Help!!

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40 thoughts on “Hypocrisy

  1. I’m probably too late (it’s 5:37 out here on the east coast) but you can always substitute a nice white sauce (made with homemade chicken stock) or bechamel for the cream of whatever soup. It’s saved the chicken pot pie my husband grew up with for me, and much cheaper. Also I saute/carmelize some onions and celery before adding the flour to make the roux. I’m sure that could take it up at least half a notch.

    Seems like I remember “Pastor Doug” (as we affectionately call him out here) saying in one of his sermons that “every french fry is sanctified,” so don’t worry too much! My husband made our kids fried bologna sandwiches on white bread on Christmas Eve last year as a “treat.” Of course he served them with Cheetos.

  2. Nope, you’ve got it. Cream of mushroom soup + browned ground beef + frozen mixed vegetables, topped with a crust of tater tots.

    It’s my husband’s favorite casserole. 😛

    I shudder and grimace and sometimes make it for him.

  3. Hmmm….Tater Tot Casserole….It is a staple food here in Minnesota, except it is called Hot Dish instead of Casserole. We have lived here almost 10 years now and I have still managed to avoid eating it or making it. Maybe think of it as a tater tot version of shepherd’s pie – sort of. I really enjoy real shepherd’s pie. Maybe you can trick your brain thinking of it that way. Please tell us how your dare turns out! I am very curious as to why your husband would dare you to make it. =)

  4. My Tater Tot recipe calls for onion and an envelope of onion soup mix and says chicken can be used instead of beef if you like. I seem to remember making it somewhere along the way.

  5. Hi Bekah,
    This was so funny. My mother made Tater Tot casserole for dinner at least twice a week. My husband balked and we never have eaten it after about our first month.
    Fast forward about 16 years and a couple of weeks that I spent on and off with my husband in the hospital in Spokane. Many people kindly offered to make meals for the kids left at home, but they got Tater Tot casserole twice during that time, and were really unimpressed (what was that?), but thankfully never told the donors. I don’t know what you could do to fix it – make your own cream soup, ala french cream sauce? Use homemade hashbrowns to top instead of tater tots? Does it still count as tater tot casserole if you use substitutions? Be sure to let us know how it works out.

  6. Mmmm. Humble Pie.

    Someone made us a big ol’ tater-tot casserole after one of our Texan kids was born, and it was a stupendous hit amongst the toddler population of our household. But Jenn’s right; it’s basically a speed-demon shepherd’s pie, emphasis on the demon. So maybe you could just dig out a decent shepherd’s pie recipe, but replace the mashed potatoes with the Tots of Shame to avoid eating all that despair and sorrow. And Lisa might be right about the Ketchup of Absolution. Enjoy.

  7. I am posting to stand up for the regular ol’ tater tot casserole! I am proud to admit that I am an adult and I love it. There for sure is a time and place for fancy schmancy recipes but there is equally a time for simple yumminess.

  8. Ellen,
    Tater tots are, alas, the illegitimate children of french fries and hash browns. They are small, barrel-shaped hash brown “potato” pods that have been deep fried. They are the staple food of most high school and college cafeterias (and even a few hospital cafeterias I have been in). It is standard practice, after Tater Tot Day in the cafeteria, to have Tater-Tot Casserole Day, which is only one step up from Mystery or Surprise Casserole.

    Rebekah,
    Look on the bright side, for the low, low cost of one questionable dinner, you have gained a two-for-one life lesson: never receive a dare and never give out a dare you aren’t prepared to suffer for as well!

  9. I’m with Amanda~ home made white sauce (with a little sour cream added) and we always add fresh mushrooms with the frozen green beans. Kind of moves it towards Tater Tot Stroganoff 😉 I do spice the meat pretty heavily when I brown it… garlic, home made seasoned salt, black pepper, red pepper…. I never had it growing up, either, but my hubby loves it and “mentioned” it for 10 years before I bravely moved into internet land to find a recipe. He says it’s best done in a cast iron dutch oven over (and under) coals from your slash-burning fire!!

  10. Thank you, Bekah,
    I had no idea what to make for dinner tonight. I had never even heard of tater tot casserole, but it sounds like comfort food par excellence. It is in the oven now, just needed to go get some tater tots, their not being a staple food in our house. I just added garlic powder and red pepper as per my eldest daughter’s habit for spicing up recipes.

  11. Hannah G beat me to it – just make shepherds pie with tots on top and call it a day. I have never even heard of tater tot casserole, probably due to the fact that i live in California. But i’ll be your hubs and kids would welcome the tots for mashed potato swap on the shepherds pie and they may even accept it’s disguise as “tater tot casserole”. Good luck!

  12. I’ve never made it, but I think chopped up hotdogs or bologna would sound nice a gourmet (pronounce the ‘T’) toll.

    I am positive tater-tots are made differently than they used to be. (Aged me, at 23…) I remember such a savory delightful thing, nothing like the bland crumbly things they are now.

  13. Yes, I’m with the Shepherd’s Pie variation. Here’s a shot –

    РSaut̩ 1/2 chopped red onion and carrot slices until onion is transparent and carrots are soft. Add mushroom slices, chopped garlic, and fresh thyme. Cook for a few more minutes. Brown ground lamb and drain. Add frozen peas to the mix. Salt and Peppa.

    – For sauce: melt 1/4 cup butter, whisk in 1/4 cup of flour. Stir for a few minutes. Whisk in 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of beef broth, and a big handful of Gruyere. Or Dubliner. Or aged cheddar.

    – Combine lamb mixture with sauce. Pour into buttered dish. Top with lots of Tots. And bake! Or maybe serve in individual ramekins.

    That’s what I’d do if I wanted to spiffy it a bit. But maybe that avoids the thrill of the dare! What fun and funny post.

  14. okay… too late to really help, but …
    I would begin with ways to make my own version of a cream soup that included natural whole foods or organic adding onion and garlic. Made an AWESOME cream of celery in my Vitamix that would be great – substituting celery for mushrooms or broccoli!! Beef, well, that’s not bad and then I’d go to Whole Foods and see what they had for Tater Tot substitute….
    Them’s my two cents….

  15. I’m not going to give you any recipe ideas but I am going to relay my tator tot casserole experience..
    In 4-H I made tater tot casserole once during a home economics class. It was the first time I’d ever tasted it and I loved it (I’m sure it was all the MSG). Well fast forward 15 years and I was a newly wed and I was chatting with my husband about different foods and likes and what he liked and didn’t like. We talked about tuna casserole and he mentioned that he loved tuna casserole. I mentioned tater tot casserole and he said he’d never had it. Well I confused the two and thought I would make him a loving dish of tater tot casserole. I too googled the find a good recipe but they all looked pretty bland and disgusting…well I made an averagely disgusting tater tot casserole and served it to him for dinner…and he was polite and loving in his reply of…”I thought I said I like Tuna casserole and I wouldn’t mind if you never made tater tot casserole again.” I never have either! I’m so glad he didn’t like it.

    fast forward 5 years almost to the day and we have three beautiful daughters who are learning to be spirited riders staying on the path!

  16. Molly, you’re a hero, Tator Tot Hotdish was one of my favorites in college. And Jenn A, hat tip for pointing out Minnesota nomenclature, hotdish!

    Bekah, my former room mate and I just had a chat on facebook about this, she substituted moose meat for the ground beef.

  17. As long as you put some seasonings in, that doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all. Not gourmet to be sure, and not the way I usually cook either, but none of the component ingredients are inherently terrible. White sauce is cheaper and more healthful than canned soup, but it’s not a big deal either way. I hope we’re not food snobs around here! That would wreck my image of Femina entirely!

  18. Years ago my brother invited us for dinner and my little niece made the tator-tot casserole. It was heavenly! She mixed everything up. Her ingredients were hamburger, frozen peas, the cream of mushroom soup and a half of a can of milk. I really liked the lack of soup goo on the top. I still make it. It’s really good with tabasco sauce!

  19. If there are tater tots in my freezer, I’m making this for dinner tonight in your honor – just because you made me laugh out loud!!!

  20. as long as you add a rather large layer of shredded chedder cheese over the beef, then the tater tots, you should be okay, not great but okay. I also add a big handful of frozen veggies to the beef. My kids don’t like it though so I am saved from ever making this again!

  21. Bekah, I hate to admit this…but though I have never had that “dish” it sounds REALLY good right now! And yes, you know my father is a French chef (so shh..don’t tell him!)…maybe it has something to do with being pregnant…but tater tots in any form, with ground beef and a white sauce all together…sounds amazing! So hope you all enjoyed it! ;D

  22. 1/2 cup of chopped parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon make any recipe gourmet. And make sure you use “sea salt” and fresh ground pepper.

  23. all of this talk of tater tot casserole and no one mentions sauerkraut? tater tots, sour cream, mushroom soup, big franks (a.k.a. fake hot dogs) and sauerkraut. of course you’ll love it. 😉

  24. I know this is late, but I always chop an onion and green pepper to add with the ground beef, and a bag of mixed vegetables of course!

  25. Brown half burger and half Italian sausage, sweet onions. Add diced tomatoes, fresh basil and white sauce, salt, pepper, Italian seasonings to taste. Top with tots.

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