I’m not really big into casseroles and stuff like that. Perhaps it’s because my mother never really made them when we were growing up, so I’m more accustomed to real food… However, I always liked the idea of tater tot casserole. My only problem with the concept, though, is that it always seemed like a glorified Thanksgiving dinner side. Don’t get me wrong, I love green bean casserole! But, I wouldn’t want to make an entire meal of it… I don’t think.
So, this idea came about because I just couldn’t get past the glorified green bean casserole idea. I know some people use mixed vegetables instead of the green beans, but I’m not a fan of cooked carrots so that doesn’t really work for me. Because I live in Wisconsin, there HAS to be plenty of cheese in my casserole! So, I started with some cheddar cheese soup. And, since we’re using tater tots on top of the dish, I thought the cream of potato soup would be a nice alternative. What I ended up with is a tater tot casserole that’s a little bit different but still tastes wonderful!
As for the ground sirloin and ground chicken breast mixture, I’ve been doing that a lot lately as I’m becoming more and more health conscious. You can’t even taste the difference after it’s cooked, but I feel better because I know the chicken breast is very lean. Not to mention, it’s a great way to stretch your dollar, and who couldn’t use a little of that nowadays! Where I live, fresh chicken breasts go on sale at least once every month, for $2.99 (or less) per pound. Lean hamburger hardly ever goes on sale for that cheap… So, to save money and still be healthy, I combine the two, making a lean meat mixture that doesn’t taste “off.”
1 lb. ground sirloin
1 lb. ground chicken breast
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt & Freshly ground black pepper
1 (10¾ oz.) can cheddar cheese soup
2 (10¾ oz.) cans cream of potato soup
Splash of milk
2 (15 oz.) cans peas with pearl onions
2 c. shredded Colby jack cheese
1 (32 oz.) bag tater tots
Preheat the oven to 350°.
In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, combine the ground sirloin and ground chicken breast, stirring and breaking up the pieces to combine. Brown the combined meat over medium heat until thoroughly cooked through. (Note: When using leaner meats like ground chicken or turkey breast and/or ground sirloin, it is not necessary to drain and rinse the meat as it is already quite lean. You’ll know that the meat is cooked through when nearly all of the liquid in the bottom of the pan has cooked off.) During the last minute or so of cooking, add the minced garlic and stir to combine; let the garlic cook in the mixture, stirring frequently, for a minute or two. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper over the meat when it is done cooking and stir to combine; remove from the heat.
Drain the peas with pearl onions in a colander to drain off all of the liquid. In the same pan as the cooked ground meat, stir in the cheddar cheese and cream of potato soups. To thin out the mixture a little bit, if needed, add a little bit of milk. (You don’t want the mixture to be really soupy, because it’s going to cook and thin out a little more anyways.) Fold the peas with pearl onions into the mixture and pour into an 11 x 8-inch baking dish (2 quarts). Using a spatula, even out the mixture, and then sprinkle the top with 1 cup of the shredded cheese; arrange the tater tots on top of the cheese-covered mixture and bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until the meat and vegetable mixture is heated through and the tater tots are golden brown. Remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, return to the oven and bake an additional 5 - 10 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted. Serve hot.