If there’s one thing I’ve brought with me — and indefinitely cannot scrape away from my character — its my love for all things weird Midwest cuisine. Anything hearty with a dash of strange, from a can, and socially questionable is all good in my book.
Here’s the problem: NO ONE UNDERSTANDS. People here don’t “get” why anyone would put “mayonnaise” in their “jello.” They don’t understand the logistics of a Midwest meal, why people would, by their own free will, use cream of mushroom soup for ANYTHING, EVER.
Let me assure you — assuming that most, if not all of the audience reading this is from the prairie — I am working on them. These people that don’t buy into the hotdishes and salads, who were raised on normal, BORING food in Connecticut, California, Texas and Maryland; to them I say, you gotta try this.
I have made Totdish (as it’s been shortened to in true New York diction) twice now for my roommates & co. The first time I was about 80% confident they might like it, and 20% certain they’d never trust my food again. I was already on thin ice, being the only roommate not to conjure up some sort of mushroom risotto paired with a perfect red, brine a beef shoulder for 9 hours or make chocolate chip cookies (chochicoo’s, as they should probably be shortened to) from scratch. These were my skeptics, and Totdish was my time to shine.
Through no recipe of my own, I foraged for the ingredients. The price tag was about $12 to make an entire 9 x 13 pan of totty goodness, which made me momentarily ponder if I was about to commit a crime of evict-able proportions. I set my doubt aside and carried on the magic.
When the Totdish was pulled from the oven, my roommates were rounded up at the table. Each scooped a small portion on their plate, braced themselves with ketchup and beverages, and apprehensively tasted what I’d assured them would change their lives.
And did it ever.
Naysayers turned believers, and Totdish prevails.
Here’s my recipe (altered from an All Recipes version) — though I’m sure all those reading this have been making it long before me, and have their own lovingly-used paper recipe card in their kitchens already! (Please also note that I’m the furtherest person from having any culinary credibility.)
You will need:
• 1 pound extra-lean ground beef (Note: I have made this vegetarian using MorningStar beef crumbles, and the taste and texture are on par with real ground beef.)
• 1 onion, chopped
• 2 cloves crushed garlic
• 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
• 1/2 (10.75 ounce) can milk
• 1 (32 ounce) package tater tots
• 1 package shredded cheddar cheese
• Salt and pepper to taste
• • • • •
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Sauté onions and garlic until tender. Cook ground beef (if you are using MorningStar crumbles, cook them in about 1 Tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper) and combine with onions and garlic. Mix cream of mushroom soup with milk. Layer the meat, soup mix, 3/4 bag of cheese, and tater tots in a 9×13 baking dish. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until tots are golden brown. Feed your loved ones. Hooray!