How to cook tator tot hotdish  NOV 19 2003

Hotdish is a delicacy enjoyed by the inhabitants of the upper midwestern United States. For those of you who haven't spent a lot of time in the flyover states, hotdish is a dish typically baked in one pan and contains a meat, a starch, and a vegetable with optional cheese or onion crisps. It's what the rest of the US would call a casserole. Hotdish is the food of my people.

The Cadillac of hotdishes is tator tot hotdish, and here's how you go about making it.

Step 1: Panic.
You may want to skip this step. I did, and it worked out fine.

Step 2: Learn how to peel an onion.
I did not know this going in. Valuable minutes were wasted as tears welled up in my eyes from the onion essence.

Step 3: Collect ingredients and supplies
These should include:

1.5 pounds beef, ground
1 onion, chopped
2 cans of Campbell's cream soup (mushroom, celery, chicken, pick two)
1 soup can-worth of milk
1 can french cut green beans
1 package tator tots
1 pound cheddar cheese, grated
1 9"x13" baking pan

You can find all of these items at your local grocery store and/or in your kitchen cupboard. This task is immensely easier in rural Wisconsin than in, say, Greenwich Village; they practically sell all these items together in a blister-packed kit back home while locating the french cut green beans at D'Agostino's was a bit touch and go.

Step 4: Assemble the hotdish
Chop the onions. Grate the cheese. In a largish pot, brown the ground beef and onions. Into the pot goes the soups, the milk, and the green beans. Stir and cook until warmish/hot. Cover the bottom of the 9x13 baking pan with the tator tots, pour the hamburger/soup mixture over them, and cover liberally with the grated cheese. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve.

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