Alright friends. It’s time for a purely Minnesotan post! Hot dish.
Not casserole. Hot dish.
Basically mix a bunch of stuff together, usually condensed soup of some kind, top with something crunchy and delicious (like tator tots), and bake to perfection. But this hot dish? The original tator tot hot dish! In college, the only food I requested on my visits home was tator tot hot dish. It will literally change your life. And make you hungry for more Minnesota.
Of course, I didn’t feel quite comfortable enough posting a recipe that uses two types of condensed soup as the primary source of flavor. So I revamped it a bit with a homemade condensed soup base! Oh and I made it relatively-mini. Because that’s quickly becoming my favorite thing to do. (Nothing could beat my dad’s tator tot hot dish, but I tried)
This condensed soup is pretty thick but has less fat than a traditional condensed soup. So how did we get that to happen?! Well this recipe has a pretty high proportion of flour which is all of the thickening power we need. The flour has a large amount of starch. When we heat that starch with some water, the interior of the starch granules loosens up and rather dramatically inflates. That causes a big increase in the amount of space that the starch takes up in the mix which causes a big decrease in the amount of space allowed for the water to take up. The result? Lower mobility for the water and a big increase in thickness! What do we call that? Starch gelatinization! One of my favorite food science-y things.
So you’ve just gotten a lesson in starch gelatinization. Read on for a lesson in Minnesota. Your life will be changed forever. It may not be pretty or glamorous, but it’s freaking delicious.
Some (heathens) top their hot dish with cheese, but I think that’s blasphemy. However, the choice is yours. Please try it without cheese first, because it’s already perfect ha!
Okay I think that’s it. How many times have I typed hot dish so far? Let’s make it one more.
Mini Tator Tot Hot Dish
Makes 1 3-cup dish, serves 2-3
½ tablespoon butter
½ small yellow onion, chopped
½ celery stick, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
¾ cup vegetable stock
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons milk
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1-2 baby bella or white button mushrooms depending on desired strength of flavor, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
A pinch dried thyme
¼ cup water
¼ cup frozen corn, thawed
¼ pound ground hamburger
15 frozen crowns or tator tots (the crowns are great for the mini dish because they’re smaller)
- Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, celery, and garlic. Cook for 5-8 minutes until softened and turning translucent, stirring to prevent browning.
- Add the vegetable stock and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil.
- Whisk the milk and flour together in a small bowl. Once the stock is boiling, slowly add the milk/flour mixture whisking to combine. Add the mushrooms, salt, garlic powder, pepper, onion powder, celery salt, and thyme. Stir to combine. Taste the soup and adjust the salt and pepper content. If your stock is unsalted, you may have to add extra salt.
- Reduce heat to medium and bring to a very low boil, stirring frequently, scraping the sides, to prevent burning. Once the mixture has thickened further, remove pan from heat and set aside.
- Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Brown the meat breaking it up as you cook it. Add a few pinches of salt and black pepper while you cook it. When fully cooked, remove from the heat and let cool.
- Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. To a 3-cup casserole dish, add the mushroom/celery condensed soup, corn, hamburger meat, and ¼ cup water. Mix together carefully and fully.
- Add the frozen crowns or tator tots to the top to fully cover. Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or until the crowns are browned and the filling is bubbling.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10-15 minutes before digging in. But then, go at it! You’re officially Minnesotan.
**Alternatively, you can go old-school and use canned condensed soup. Skip steps 1-4. Combine 1 can cream of celery condensed soup with 1 can cream of mushroom condensed soup. When you’re adding it to the dish with the water and other ingredients, add a couple extra tablespoons of water. Additionally, you’ll have extra soup leftover (only fill the dish up about ¾ full), but it keeps well in the fridge!