I was seriously excited recently when my P.S. found some new soups at the grocery store. I’d asked him to pick up soups so that I could make tater tot hotdish for supper. The cold, snowy day called for comfort food. I just needed cream of mushroom soup and cream of celery soup to fulfill that need. My P.S. texted me a picture and I gasped. No way!
Campbell’s sneaked some new soups out on me! Cream of Cremini and Shiitake Mushroom Soup! Yes, that’s all in one can! According to their website the mushrooms, some beef broth and cream will make it easier to make one pot meals. The other new soup we discovered was Cream of Sweet Corn. I was interested to see if it differed from a can of creamed corn. He brought them home and I went to work.
I omitted the usual cream of celery soup in favor of the combination of new soup flavors. I’ve mentioned (probably often enough to be annoying) that I’m not much of a celery fan. I can always find other flavors as substitutes. For this hotdish any vegetables would do. Corn and mushrooms would be great, I was almost positive. And I should also note that this is a casserole, for those of you who don’t live in the Midwest. They are the same beast, it all depends on where you were raised or live. I’m a northern, hotdish person.
I made the tater tot hotdish in my usual way. I crumbled the raw ground beef all over the bottom of the ungreased pan. Next I sprinkled my finely chopped onions. I happened to have a red onion (purple really) already started in the fridge so I used that up. I generously salt and peppered next, sometimes I forget to do that and it’s not quite as good. Other times I add cheese to the hotdish but this time I wanted a clear shot at tasting the new soups, so cheese was omitted.
Next I spread the bag of frozen veggies over the meat and onion. Simple. I hate squeaky frozen green beans but this is the one time I will eat them.
Then I got to the soups layer. I knew the sweet corn soup wasn’t going to star in this dish, which was a shame. I made a mental note to try it again when it could be more of a stand-out sauce. For now I spread it over the vegetable layer first. I did sample it to see what kind of flavors we were dealing with. Pretty much the same as creamed corn, strained. There weren’t any chunks. Good flavor.
Finally I got to the fancy mushroom soups. Hm. Not so outstandingly different from a basic cream of mushroom soup. If I hadn’t read the can I might have mistaken it for the same old, same old. Again I made a mental note to use it again in a situation where it might shine a little more. For good ole tater tot hotdish we were crushing anything special. The beef, onion and tots pretty much steal the show on flavors. But I will say we were thrilled that the soups didn’t contain msg. For years we’ve battled our msg sensitivity that makes us use the bathroom a lot after eating it. Awkward pause. So we read labels as we shop and avoid it. Campbell’s is hit or miss. Some soups have msg, some don’t.
Last but not least came the tater tots. They went over the top, in as much of a single layer as possible. They overlapped in places of course, mostly because I added a few more from a bag I had leftover in the freezer. Tater tots don’t last long in the freezer; they take on flavors and eventually are hideous to eat. They taste like you’re licking the liner of your freezer. Not even ketchup helps. Word to the wise: eat them up quickly after you bring them home.
Did I ever tell you I live a block away from a tater tot factory? When the wind is right I smell Ore Ida Tater Tots and other frozen potato products (fries). I smell them often enough to not want to willingly eat them very often. Sometimes the smell is so frightening I wonder what they’re doing to those poor things. With that particular smell, I vow to never buy them again. But I do. On rare occasions. Like when I’m craving tater tot hotdish. There’s just no substitute for the tater tots in that dish!
So the hotdish was in the oven, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours. I’m one of those who wants the tots pretty browned on top so I do put the broiler on for a few minutes until they are extra browned and crispy. That probably harkens back to my experiences with the smells from the factory. I want to make sure they’re really, really dead.
How was my new “artisanal” tater tot hotdish? Wonderful! But alas, not much different from the versions I’ve made without the fancy pants Campbell’s soups. If the soups are pricey, (I forgot to ask my P.S.) I’d just as soon go back to the traditional soups. The fun in a comfort food is that it is easily made with things you usually have on hand that don’t break the bank. Cheapness is comforting. The new soups should probably serve as sauces for pastas with a protein added to make a quick meal. That would be worth the extra cost. You should judge for yourself, of course.
My P.S. said he definitely noticed a difference, the flavors were more pronounced. Maybe, but I still think it wasn’t different enough to count. When we purchase the soups again I’ll put them in things where they can be more of a star. Pasta and chicken, maybe, for the mushroom soup. The sweet corn soup would make a great gravy on mashed potatoes.
Artisinal Tater Tot Hotdish
The tater tot hotdish our mom used to make, with new and unusual soups.
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 onion; finely chopped (I used a red onion)
- 20 oz frozen mixed vegetables
- 1 can Campbell’s cream of sweet corn soup
- 2 cans Campbell’s cream of cremini and shiitake mushroom soup
- 32 oz tater tots
- salt and pepper
In bottom of a 9×13-in baking pan crumble raw ground beef in an even layer. Layer chopped onion over beef. Sprinkle on salt and pepper.
Spread frozen vegetables over mixture.
Spread the sweet corn soup over the vegetables with a rubber spatula, followed by the mushroom soups.
Layer on tater tots.
Bake uncovered for 1 1/2 hours.
Tip: If you’d like the tater tots a little more browned, turn on the broiler for a few minutes. Watch it closely!