I shopped for the ingredients of a Midwestern comfort food one gloomy, rainy day. Just the thought of Tater Tot Hotdish, which I hadn’t had in quite some time, made me look forward to supper.
But I had no idea tots were so hot.
I posted something on the online world of Facebook that I planned to tweak the standard hotdish recipe. That’s when I found out that there is no standard recipe and that people go crazy over Tater Tot Hodish. I had no idea that there were so many variations for those little crunchy pillows of potatoes, or that people were so passionate about this comfort food.
“I was thinking about using sliced sweet potatoes on top to be more healthy,” someone posted.
While this idea is admirable, I am not jumping on board. Tater Tot Hotdish is not meant to be the healthiest food you’ve ever eaten; it’s meant to be awesome. The tweaks I was planning to make – tots on the top and the bottom, two cans of soup, and cheese on top – were definitely not of the “healthy” variety.
To my surprise the ideas kept rolling in:
Add sour cream (apparently this is “the best ever”) and cheddar cheese
If you want a variation you could add a can of Ro-tel Tomatoes and Diced Green Chilis or some sliced jalapenos
Use Parmesan cheese instead of cheddar and add Kalamata olives for a Mediterranean flavor
Make a “chili” version with tomatoes, kidney beans and spices
Make a loaded baked potato version with sour cream, chives, bacon bits, and cheddar
Add a package of taco seasoning
Reheat leftovers and crunch up some multi-grain Tostitos in it…yum!
Someone else wrote, “You could switch out the canned soups for a bechamel sauce.” I had to Google what béchamel sauce is and Wikipedia explained it to me, “Bechamel sauce is also known as white sauce and is one of the mother sauces of French cuisine, it is also used in many recipes of Italian cuisine.” I giggled as I wondered what Julia Child would think of us using her beloved French cooking inspiration to spice up tater tots.
At some point in the online conversation a California resident popped up and impressed herself with her knowledge of the word “hotdish,” which she recently learned from a North Dakota native. Though she knew the term, she had no idea that a whole hotdish existed around the tator tot ingredient. She said the thought of it made her swoon…as it should.
People continued to respond with their ideas and suggestions and one friend wanted to make it a competition.
“Seriously. Mine is GOOD with an AWESOME presentation,” he wrote. Usually up for competition I surprised myself when I backed off. That’s fine. He doesn’t have to convince me that his version of the dish is the best. He should just cook up some of his unique hotdish recipe so I can sample it, compliment him, and declare him the winner.
In the meantime, I’m adding sour cream to my shopping list.